By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Jason Day ensured compatriot Adam Scott's pre-tournament prediction of a World Cup triumph for Australia was no idle talk as he charged into the lead after the third round of the $8 million tournament on Saturday.
Day's assured five-under 66 gave himself a one-stroke lead over Danish overnight leader Thomas Bjorn in the individual competition while lifting Australia to the same margin over the United States atop the team component.
The world number eighteen's impressive return at a challenging Royal Melbourne course follows the loss of eight of his relatives who were killed in the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan.
Day had expected to be carried by world number two Scott, but has instead shouldered the burden of putting Australia back in the frame while hoping to lift spirits in his mother's country.
"I think it's going to be a bit of a challenge tomorrow," the 26-year-old told reporters.
"It's going to be a big waiting game because there's a lot of good players, a lot of tough competitors behind me that are willing to take the win and I've got to go out there and just play golf and really not think about it.
"I really want to play well in front of the home crowd ... But I can't put too much expectation on myself. If I do that then I'm just going to play my way out of the tournament."
On Sunday, Scott won the Australian Masters tournament at the same course and urged a roaring crowd of home fans to return to Royal Melbourne to watch he and Day lift the team trophy.
The prediction appeared fanciful after Thursday's opening round when Scott opened with a 75 featuring a horror quintuple-bogey on the 12th.
Despite the strain of playing three successive tournaments in three weeks, Scott has grafted back into the tournament and is seven behind Day after posting a 68 on Saturday, despite feeling that the competition has become increasingly surreal.
"It's a bit like 'Groundhog Day', isn't it? I see you guys every day," he told reporters.
"I drive out to Royal Melbourne, play Royal Melbourne every day and see you guys again.
"I don't think it's too tiring at all. It's not a big slog to get around here but, yeah, it's hard work."
With his swing slightly off, the U.S. Masters champion has been relying largely on patience and grit to keep within touch but would not rule out conjuring a perfect round to have a shot at the individual title.
"Personally I think if they're not in double digits I've still got a chance to post a number tomorrow and win this tournament," the 33-year-old said.
"So I'm going to have to play great to do it and I'd like to come out and hit some good shots tomorrow and give myself a chance." (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)