Garcia on track to another victory

European Tour

Spain’s rejuvenated Sergio Garcia has put himself on track to back-to-back European Tour victories in the Andalucia Masters.

Spain’s rejuvenated Sergio Garcia has put himself on track to back-to-back European Tour victories in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama.

The man who came in from the cold to triumph by a stunning 11 shots at last week’s Castelló Masters in home-town Valencia, did it by firing a 67 in Saturdays third round to go to 6-under for the tournament and move into a two stroke lead over fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Sweden’s Christian Nilsson who stormed up the leaderboard with a blistering 65 that equalled the best round of the week so far.

And Scotland’s overnight leader Richie Ramsay? What became of him.

The former US Amateur champion who finished in a very respectable third place last week, did not have his best day, notable on the closing stretch which he entered just one shot off the pace at 5-under, but then, inexplicably, ran into bogeys on 17 and 18 to finish with a 73 that left him trailing Garcia by all of three shots.

In contrast, things could only have been slightly better for Garcia, who almost recorded a hole-in-one at the sixth and mixed six birdies in total with just two bogies on one of Europe’s toughest tracks.

His bogey at the 17th, Valderrama’s signature hole, did take some of the glitter off his sparkling performance, but not much

After finding a bunker off the tee, the 31 year old looked to have put his second shot into the lake guarding the green. However, the ball came to rest on a rock and Garcia took off his shoes and socks to play a risky pitch from inside the hazard.

He was unable to save par, missing the green to the right and then failing to get up and down, but a closing birdie, coupled with Ramsay’s failure to make par at 17, restored his two stroke advantage.

Asked to comment on his unusual exploits at the 17th, Garcia said: “It was obviously risky, but I liked my chances of getting up and down better from there than from the drop zone.”

Garcia’s first bogey came at the fifth, but he shrugged it away, saying, “After I three-putted the fifth I came straight back with a birdie, so to have that bouncebackability is always nice.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s final round, he added: “I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Hopefully I can come out and have the same feelings and mentality and my best will be good enough.”

Jiménez, who like Garcia is looking to become the first Spaniard to win a stroke play event at this venue, holed a delightful pitch for a three at the par five fourth and then claimed his second eagle of the day on the 11th when he struck a 246-yard approach shot to two feet.

A bogey at 15 prevented him from matching Garcia’s third-round score, yet the cigar-puffing veteran remains very much in contention for a first win since last September, when he triumphed at the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre.

Nilsson, whose only European Tour victory to date came at the co-sanctioned Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC in 2009, birdied four holes in a row from the fourth and, then, after a bogey at eight, picked up further shots at the ninth and 13th to surge into contention.

He did suffer a second setback at the short 15th, but made up for the damage at 17 before holing a sizeable birdie putt at the last.

“It was a fun day on the course today, one of my best rounds this year, or ever, maybe,” said Nilsson.

“The course has played quite difficult, with a bit less wind, but I’m really happy with my game – good shot making and I holed a lot of putts as well.

“Tomorrow is going to be a tough day, it’s an important day for me. I’m just on the bubble to making the Race to Dubai final, so I need something good this week. I’ve put myself in a good position, so it’s going to be a big day for me tomorrow, interesting and quite a nervous day I guess.”

England’s Steve Webster went round in 66 to climb into fifth on level par, but Gregory Havret, Ramsay’s nearest challenger after round two, carded a 76 to drop back to two over.

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

207 Sergio Garcia (Spa) 70 70 67
209 Christian Nilsson (Swe) 73 71 65, Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa) 71 70 68
210 Richie Ramsay 65 72 73
213 Steve Webster 75 72 66
214 Stephen Gallacher 68 76 70, Shane Lowry 72 71 71, Alejandro Canizares (Spa) 71 72 71
215 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 71 73 71, Martin Wiegele (Aut) 71 76 68, Ross Fisher 67 79 69, David Howell 72 75 68, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spa) 73 72 70, Gregory Havret (Fra) 68 71 76

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