Versailles, France - American Kevin Stadler began his third round under cloudy skies and drizzle on Saturday as he looks to protect a two shot lead over playing partner Victor Riu of France and the rest of the chasing pack.
The 34-year-old from Nevada parred his opening two holes before a bogey at the par five third to stand on nine under as Riu moved within two shots.
Marcel Siem of Germany was on four under alongside Northern Irishman Michael Hoey and five shots back of the American who is making his debut at the French Open.
The Albatross layout, that is to host the 2018 Ryder Cup in France for the first time, gave players difficult conditions with blustery winds, light rain but mixed with the occasional spell of sunshine.
Riu is attempting to become the first Frenchman since Thomas Levet in 2011 to win on home soil.
“I'm French, it's in France and a lot of people are watching me so it would be great to win one here,” said Riu on the eve of his third round.
“I know the course very well because most of the time I play here so it's good I can stay at home. Every time I play 18 holes, I come to Le Golf National and play with my friends,” said the player who lives in nearby Saint-Nom-la-Breteche, the venue for the Seve Trophy which was won by Continental Europe over Great Britain and Ireland in 2013.
Siem, who needs a top ten finish this weekend to qualify for the British Open which begins on July 17 at Hoylake, near Liverpool, was one over for the day after five holes.
Irishman Damien McGrane was enjoying a fine start to his round with birdies at the second and third holes to leave him in a joint tie for fifth on three under with Englishman Mark Foster.
A group of six players, including defending champion Graeme McDowell, were locked on two under after the Ulsterman dropped a stroke at the par four opening hole.
The highest placed Frenchman, Alexander Levy, was also in this group after nine holes that produced two birdies and bogey at the par three eighth.
Scotland's Stephen Gallacher, who is trying to qualify for Paul McGinley's European Ryder Cup team, continued to struggle and was well off the pace at one under after a double bogey on the third hole.
Gallagher, was just two shots off the lead halfway through his second round on eight under before the wheels came off in a disatrous back nine of five over, that has seen the Linlithgow native fall out of contention. - Sapa-AFP