Fanning was the highest scoring title contender today. He beat Brazilian wildcard Marco Polo 15.57 to 8.90.
"He started off with a 6.00, I think I started out with a 5.00," said Fanning. "I just wanted to get two scores and put him in a position just so I could loosen up a little bit. It's always difficult going up against the wildcards in any situation here in Brazil because the fans are so vocal and it's so nerve-wracking."
Fanning would have clinched his maiden world title today had Burrow or Slater lost their Round 3 heats. While they could keep their aspirations alive into Hawaii by finishing ahead of Fanning in Brazil, the likelihood of them beating him in Pipeline decreases with every heat Fanning makes.
"That's the thing, I'm gaining points right now too," Fanning said. "If those guys keep getting through as well, they'll be bettering points but I just want to keep going through, taking it heat by heat and focusing on the job at hand."
Slater scored early and left wildcard Renato Galvao (BRA) needing big numbers the duration of their heat.
"Right when we got out there it was clean, there were a few rights coming through and I got that one five seconds into the heat," Slater said. It started out quick, I got a score and got a backup and he never bettered my second score so he needed a big one in the end."
While he wasn't stressing about beating Galvao in Round 4, Slater was contemplating the daunting task at hand if he hopes to clinch his 9th ASP World Title. He must place two rounds ahead of Fanning to stay in contention.
"There's a little stress if you think about it the wrong way," Slater said. "I started getting a headache out there thinking about it. The situation is what it is, it's a long shot for Taj and I and we just need to keep putting up some numbers and making it through heats. We're on the opposite side of the draw from Mick so there is nothing we can do about it there but he does surf before me so if does go out – two more wins and he's put me out of the race – so if he does go out in one of those heats that's going to pump me up and get me inspired but that will be tomorrow so we'll see what happens."
Burrow is in a slightly better situation than Slater mathematically and only has to finish one round ahead of Fanning to take the race to Hawaii. He beat wildcard William Cordoso (BRA) in a low scoring affair to find himself in a Round 4 berth with Ricky Basnett of South Africa.
"It was tricky for sure," Burrow said. "I kind of thought that the lefts were the go and that's all I concentrated on was going left. My first wave was a pretty good one but still kind of hard to turn on with so much water moving and windy. That was my first wave to day and it was a little shaky but I managed to get a 7.00 which was a keeper for out there but I could only back it up with a 4.83. It was pretty low scoring, but it was enough. I guess the conditions only allowed that."
Burrow is situated later in the draw than Slater and Fanning and has been on the beach watching their heats before donning his own rashguard.
"I actually prefer being in an earlier heat because you feel like you are one step ahead of the other guys," Burrow said." At the moment Mick is in that position, he gets to surf first. I watched those guys surf and they're both surfing really well. It's exciting for the spectators for sure, we're all in it."
World No. 4 Joel Parkinson posted the highest heat total of the day after scoring a perfect 10 in his heat against wildcard Jihad Kohdr (BRA).
"It was a good looking left, I didn't even have priority, I just went," Parkinson said. "There's no pressure on me so I just surfed it like I would have in a free surf. The first turn just set the rest up and it was a good wave to surf. It was only three turns, but they felt like three good turns."
Parkison was a factor in the 2007 Foster's ASP World Title race up until an early loss at the last event in Spain.
"After my chances to win the world title slipped away, I just wanted no pressure on myself. There was that cloud of the world title hanging around my head and now its gone, so the year is over for me. I'm just here to surf some heats, have a good time, and get a result."
Heitor Alves (BRA) is the only wildcard still surfing in the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro. He beat Bobby Martinez (AUS) and Chris Ward (AUS) today. Alves, who is rated 13th on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS), could likely qualify for the Foster's ASP World Tour next year.
"During last year's competition here in Imbituba I lost in Round 3," Alves said. "Before the start of the heat I was a bit confused because my board was broken, so I had to surf with new equipment which I have never done before. Luckily it worked. Up to now I am the only Brazilian to qualify for the 4th round, so whatever the next results are, I'll be satisfied. Next year I'll compete fewer times at the WQS so I will have time to train in perfect hollow waves, so I can improve my performance for the World Tour in places such as Fiji and Teahupoo."
While an official call will be made at 7:15 tomorrow morning, it is highly likely that Round 4 will commence at 7:30am and that an event champion will be crowned tomorrow afternoon.
Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Heitor Alves (BRA) 14.17 def. Bobby Martinez (USA) 12.23
Heat 2: Michael Campbell (AUS) 12.17 def. Corey Lopez (USA) 11.67
Heat 3: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 16.50 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.60
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.67 def. Jihad Khodr (BRA) 8.33
Heat 5: Dayyan Neve (AUS) 11.67 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 8.83
Heat 6: Neco Padaratz (BRA) 13.84 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 12.04
Heat 7: Luke Stedman (AUS) 16.00 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 6.83
Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.57 def. Marco Polo (BRA) 8.90
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.50 def. Renato Galvao (BRA) 10.00
Heat 10: Kai Otton (AUS) 12.00 def. Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 7.00
Heat 11: Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 15.17 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.50
Heat 12: Leonardo Neves (BRA) 12.40 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 8.34
Heat 13: Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.83 def. William Cardoso (BRA) 7.44
Heat 14: Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 12.83 def. Bruce Irons (HAW)4.17
Today's Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro Round 2 Results:
Heat 7: Jihad Khodr (BRA) 14.73 def. Royden Bryson (ZAF) 10.90
Heat 8: Heitor Alves (BRA) 13.50 def. Chris Ward (USA) 11.26
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.16 def. Peterson Rosa (BRA) 3.90
Heat 10: Bruce Irons (HAW) 12.67 def. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 9.67
Heat 11: Kai Otton (AUS) 16.17 def. Victor Ribas (BRA) 6.24
Heat 12: Luke Stedman (AUS) 13.50 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 12.80
Heat 13: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.83 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 10.00
Heat 14: Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 12.33 def. Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 11.56
Heat 15: Cory Lopez (USA) 14.27 def. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 13.66
Heat 16: Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 12.17 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.83
Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Heitor Alves (BRA) vs. Michael Campbell (AUS)
Heat 2: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 3: Dayyan Neve (AUS) vs. Neco Padaratz (BRA)
Heat 4: Luke Stedman (AUS) vs. Mick Fanning (AUS)
Heat 5: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 6: Shaun Cansdell (AUS) vs. Leonardo Neves (BRA)
Heat 7: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Ricky Basnett (ZAF)
Heat 8: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Tom Whitaker (AUS)