SOTOGRANDE, Spain – Sergio Garcia put himself in position for a second straight European Tour victory, shooting a 4-under 67 Saturday at Valderrama Golf Club in the Andalucia Masters to take a two-stroke lead after the third round.
Garcia had to remove his shoes and socks for a shot during an eventful round that moved him to 6-under 207, ahead of Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) and Sweden’s Christian Nilsson, who matched the lowest round this weekend with a 65.
Overnight leader Richie Ramsay of Scotland bogeyed the last two holes for a 73 that left him three strokes adrift.
The 31st-ranked Garcia won the Castello Masters last weekend to end a nearly three-year title drought.
Garcia nearly hit a hole-in-one at No. 6 as he collected one of six birdies at the famed Valderrama course, site of the 1997 Ryder Cup.
“It’s been a very positive day, a really solid round,” Garcia said. “That birdie at No. 6 was important after three-putting the fifth for a bogey, and to also finish off with a birdie at the 18th following that bogey at 17, those are the kind of things that keep you at the top.”
Garcia drove the bunker at the par-5 17th and looked to have found the lake guarding the green with his second shot. But his ball came to rest on a rock and he strode into the pond in his bare feet to play from the hazard, missing the green and then failing to get up and down.
But playing partner Ramsay also failed to make par at the Los Gabiones’ hole for Garcia to keep his two-shot advantage.
“It obviously was risky, but I liked my chances better from there to get up and down than the drop zone,” said Garcia, who has finished runner-up at Valderrama three times. “Tomorrow’s going to be a very tough day. We all know how difficult Valderrama is; at any moment, it can catch you.”
Like Garcia, Jimenez is looking to become the first Spaniard to win a stroke-play event at the cork tree-lined course, and the cigar-puffing Jimenez holed a pitch shot for an eagle-3 at No. 4 before claiming another eagle at the 11th after rolling in a 2-footer following a near-perfect 246-yard approach shot.
“I need to hole some more putts,” Jimenez said on the European Tour’s official website. “I’m not on good terms with my putter these days. We are fighting a battle, and the putter is going to lose.”
Garcia would qualify for next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai with a victory.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell was at 14 over after a round of 81.