Host Sergio Garcia takes 54-hole lead at Andalucia Valderrama Masters

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Host Sergio Garcia takes 54-hole lead at Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Euro Tour

Host Sergio Garcia takes 54-hole lead at Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Sergio Garcia is on course to close the gap on Tommy Fleetwood at the top of the European money list. The Masters champion leads the $2.4 million Andalucia Valderrama Masters with 18 holes to play.

The tournament host is one shot clear of England’s Daniel Brooks after returning a 3-under 68 to move to 8 under. Brooks returning a low round of the week 64 to jump into second place. Thirty-six-hole leader Joost Luiten is one shot back in third place, while Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Scott Jamieson of Scotland are tied for fourth on five under.

Garcia, who has been awarded European Tour Honorary Life Membership in recognition of this year’s Masters victory, lies second on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai with just four events following Valderrama. He’s 1,122,995 points behind Fleetwood, who’s taking this week off. Victory tomorrow would earn him 333,330 points and make his job of overhauling Fleetwood down the stretch an awful lot easier, especially since the four remaining tournaments are worth a combined $31.75 million.

The 37-year-old made six birdies but also dropped three shots around the tough Real Club Valderrama, the 1997 Ryder Cup venue. Garcia is looking for his 14th European Tour win, and third of the season following the Masters and Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Five of his previous 13 wins have come on European soil, including the 2011 Castello Masters at Valderrama.

“It was pretty solid,” Garcia said. “I’m going to go out there tomorrow and try to post another under par round and see what happens. Good rounds are possible there but they have to be spot on.

“It’s still a long way tomorrow to come so we can’t get too much ahead of ourselves.”

Brooks has hit form at just the right time. He is 123rd on the European money list and needs to get inside the top 100 to retain playing rights for this season. This is his last chance, since he won’t get into the WGC-Champions or the final three Rolex Series events. He needs a top-eight finish to keep his card.

The 30-year-old should have no problem if he plays anything like he performed in Round 3. His card could have been even tidier if not for two dropped shots in his last three holes.

The Englishman already has one European Tour win, the 2014 Madeira Islands Open. That event only carried a one-year European Tour exemption as opposed to the two-year free ticket on offer in Southern Spain. He’s got a fight on his hands to take the first-place check since he plays with home favorite Garcia in the final round. Rest assured, Brooks will settle for eighth place or better.

Donaldson has higher ambitions. The 2014 Ryder Cup hero lies 118th on the money list. His current form is a far cry from when he gained the winning point at Gleneagles three years ago. However, he’s capable of the top-five finish he needs to jump inside the top 100.

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