It looks like the final round of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters will boil down to a shootout between Northern Irish pair Graeme McDowell and Gareth Maybin, as the pair opened up a four-shot gap at the top of the leaderboard after the third round.
US Open champion McDowell had secured a two-shot lead at the halfway stage, but could only muster a 1-over par 72 in the third round at the tough Valderrama course – made all the more difficult by windy conditions, while Maybin shot a 1-under par 70 to match McDowell.
Another Irishman, Damien McGrane also fired a third round 70 to share third place, alongside McDowell’s Ryder Cup team-mate and home player Miguel Angel Jiminez on 2-under par, while fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Ryder Cup vice-captain Thomas Bjorn tied together a further shot behind.
Those were the only six players in the field to remain on an under-par score from the 13 players who set out on the third round with scores in the red, such was the strength of the wind.
McDowell had held a commanding two shot lead heading down the 18th at the course which staged the 1997 Ryder Cup match, but after a good drive he misjudged the wind and fired his approach into a greenside bunker. From there, he needed four shots to gt up and down for a costly double-bogey.
“Standing on the fairway I thought about having a comfortable lead and what happened was just careless,” McDowell said. “But there was enough good golf out there to make me happy. I am going into the Sunday afternoon with a chance to win a golf tournament and that’s where I want to be.”
Maybin, meanwhile opened his round with back-to-back bogeys before rallying to cancel them out with back-to-back birdies as he seeks to win his maiden European Tour event.
Martin Kaymer’s chances of becoming world number one look slim after the German’s third round of 70 left him nine shots behind the leaders. US PGA champion Kaymer needs to win or finish no worse than a two-way tie for second to pip England’s Lee Westwood to the top spot in the Official Golf World Rankings.
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