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Friday, 19 March 2010
A fine five-under par 67 in a testing wind gave England's Sam Walker the third round lead in the American Express Los Encinos Open at the Los Encinos Golf Club.

Gusty conditions and hardening greens made for a complex day with an ever-changing leaderboard in the joint sanctioned event between the European Challenge Tour and the Tour de las Americas, but Walker kept his composure to move to ten under par 206, two shots clear of Argentina's Mauricio Molina and the host nation’s Jose Trauwitz.

It remains all to play for however entering the final round with sixteen players within five strokes of the lead.

The man they all have to catch though is the 24 year old from Birmingham, who maintained his place at the head of affairs despite a nervy finish to his third round.

Walker’s attempt to draw a three wood around the corner on the 580 yard 18th hole miscued leaving his ball heading for the out of bounds, before it hit a concrete cart-path and ricocheted backwards under a tree.

Fortunate to have a return route to the fairway, Walker then saved par with a well-judged approach from fifty yards. "I've got up to this green on the first two days with that shot, and figured if I went a bit long today, downwind, it was still the best place to be, but I missed the draw."

Of the rest of the day that elevated him from the middle of the field to the lead, the Englishman added: “I got off to a great start, birdie-par-eagle, holing my approach shot at the third for eagle. After that I played really steady, hit a lot of good shots all the way round and made just that one mistake on the 18th.”

Argentinian 36 year old Molina, who followed up his record-equaling second round 64 with an even par 72, was surprised how similar both rounds were.

“Really I struck the ball almost identically but I did not hole any putts today and three putted three times," he said. "The three foot putts are very, very difficult because of the wind and the speed of the greens.

"What is good for my mind is I played well, as I have all week, I only made one real mistake, where I tried to get to clever with a bunker shot and ended up with a double bogey for my trouble. But I'm within two of the lead, so I have every confidence that I can keep my game up for the final day."

Trauwitz played confidently for a front nine 34 to reach nine under par, at that stage one behind Molina, but his troubles also came on the back nine greens on his way to 72. "I'm playing well, and feel I'm striking my putts well but the ball does not go in the hole. I had plenty of chances today but took almost none."

Four players shared fourth place on seven under par 209, English duo James Hepworth and Jamie Little, Germany’s Kariem Baraka and Rodolfo Gonzalez of Argentina.

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