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Fear of flying keeps Florian Fritsch grounded but he is a driving force at Scottish Hydro Challenge

Ask Florian Fritsch what his longest drive is and you get an eyebrow- raising response.

Florian Fritsch shot a 66 to join the title race                  Photograph: Getty
Florian Fritsch shot a 66 to join the title race Photograph: Getty

"Probably about 1000 miles," replies the German. Now that's a fair old clatter off the tee. Not quite.

The 28-year-old's fear of flying can be a considerable hindrance in this globe-trotting game, so Fritsch has to take to the various highways and byways of Europe in his car - with the odd ferry flung into the route planner for hops over water - to fulfil his golfing commitments.

This week he is at the Scottish Hydro Challenge in Aviemore. He got here by motoring from the previous weekend's event in Belgium to a ferry in Rotterdam before crossing the sea and driving from Hull to the Highlands.

His flying phobia may keep him grounded, but he was certainly soaring high at Macdonald Spey Valley yesterday. A third-round, five-under 66 thrust him into the title race on an 11-under 202 as he hoisted himself to within three shots of English front-runner Andrew Johnston.

Fritsch, who was runner-up in that Belgian tournament seven days ago, certainly finished with a flourish. A 5-iron into four-feet on the 13th for an eagle provided the catalyst for a late surge and he birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th to bolster his assault.

"I live in Frankfurt, just about in the middle of Europe, so it's OK for driving to various venues," said Fritsch, who played on the main European Tour in 2011. "I have tried so many things to help my flying fear and I just have to keep going with them. I did fly to an event in Morocco earlier this year, but nothing since. My brother-in-law is a pilot and he is trying to help me too."

Moritz Lampert is another German who is soaring high here this week. The 22-year-old, who lurks in a share of second place, has won twice on the Challenge Tour in recent weeks and if he plunders a third title today he would automatically be promoted to the European Tour.

With Martin Kaymer winning The Players' Championship and the US Open this season, the new generation don't have to look too far for inspiration. "German players received a bit of criticism in recent years," Fritsch said. "We are the biggest Golf Federation in Europe and we should be doing better. Hopefully there is a good crop coming through."

Lampert's neatly assembled 65 was the best of the day, but he still trails Johnston by two shots. The 25-year-old Londoner kept his nose in front with a 68 for a 14-under 199 as he moved closer to a maiden victory on the second-tier circuit.

"I like playing up here," said Johnston, who enjoyed his best finish on the European Tour in the 2012 Scottish Open just up the road at Castle Stuart. "I think this is the first time I've led going into the final round of an event. It's something to enjoy. This is why you play golf, to be in these positions."

Jason Barnes and Terry Pilkadaris sit alongside Lampert in a tie for second while Greig Hutcheon, the wily 41-year-old from Aberdeen, leads the home bid in a share of ninth on a 10-under 203 after a 68. Hutcheon won the last of his three Challenge Tour titles back in 2003, but he still has a chance of bridging that 11-year gap and a birdie putt of 20-feet on the last gave him the spring in his step ahead of a final day push.

Paul McKechnie took route 66 up the standings with a five-under card that lifted him to the fringes of the top-10 with a nine-under 204. Over a decade after earning a place on the Challenge Tour for the first time, the 37-year-old, who now has a wife and two children, is back on the circuit.

"It's a big commitment," said the Glasgow man. "I'm finding my feet again. Today I could've been seven or eight-under. I actually drove down to see my coach at Bothwell Castle the night before my third round. Something was just not right in my take away of the swing but, as usual, he waved his magic wand and got it sorted."

It was a worthwhile journey for McKechnie. The 300-mile round trip was not quite as epic as some of Fritsch's drives, mind you.

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