The 24-year-old posted a 5-under 67 Friday and is at 16-under 200 through 54-holes, two shots in front of Jim Salinetti and second-round leader Pablo del Olmo of Mexico. Bob Jacobsen, Miguel Fernandez and Clint Jensen are at 13-under 203.
Beginning the day one stroke off the lead, del Olmo and Gillespie played a cat-and-mouse game for most of the day, with del Olmo, the defending champion in Ixtapa, staying one step in front. After a del Olmo bogey on the par-3 15th pulled Gillespie even, the Canadian unleashed a 313-yard drive on the final hole before knocking his approach shot to within two feet and canning the birdie putt. His cushion was increased to two shots when del Olmo three-putted from the fringe for bogey.
It was nice to finish like that, but tomorrow is obviously the day you want to do it, said Gillespie. Pablo is hitting the ball well, and you know he isnt going to go without a fight.
Gillespie, who won the 2002 Myrtle Beach Barefoot Championship for his first pro win, was erratic with his driver for most of the day, but his short game and putting helped dig him out of what could have been a deep hole. After battling a stomach ailment for most of Thursday, Gillespie was still feeling the effects in the third round.
I think if I was feeling better, not being able to catch Pablo for most of the day would have been irritating. But being in the hunt gets the adrenaline running, and that helped me through today. But there is still one more round to go- lets see if we can get it done.
Despite a final few holes he would rather forget, del Olmo knows he has kept himself well within reach of becoming the first player since 1999 to successfully defend a Tour title.
I had chances to increase the lead but couldnt finish it off, said del Olmo. Ive seen Derek play better, but he took advantage of the chances he had. There is nothing I can do about today, we cant re-play any holes. I need to forget about it and get back at it Saturday.