Englishman Lee S James doubled his lead at a the Open Mahou de Madrid after a third round 66, an excellent score given the severity of the swirling winds that swept across the Club de Golf La Herreria. James increased his lead to two strokes over Spain’s Augustin Domingo and England’s Chris Gane.
James looked capable of leaving the rest of the field to scrap for second place after a brilliant front nine of four under par in the trying conditions, but he eventually gave shots back on his back nine and gave his fellow competitors the incentive to close the gap on the 33 year old.
He got going with a birdie on the fifth hole and followed it up with three successive birdies to open up a four shot lead, but he put a doubt in his own mind by three putting the 11th for a bogey and then was struck by a hug misfortune on the 12th when his green- bound approach struck a rock and kicked away from the putting surface.
James could no get up and down from there, but did well to take his mind away from the misfortune that had befallen him and re-establish himself as the man to catch at the top of the leaderboard with birdies on the 15th and 16th.
A bogey at the last left a sour taste fro the Englishman, but he will take a two stroke lead into the final round as he bids to win the fifth Challenge Tour event of his career.
“I played some great stuff on the front nine and then was very poor on the back nine, said James. “I made silly mistakes to drop shots and you never like to finish with a bogey at the last. But I’m in a great position and hopefully I can finis it off tomorrow.”
Domingo looked to have fallen away from the leaders with four holes to play, but he conjured a wonderful finish – picking up shots on the 15th, 16th and 17th, and then lipping out for birdie on the 18th.
“It was very difficult out there today, the conditions were a lot tougher than the first two rounds and I felt a lot of pressure on me today. I am very happy with the way I finished – it could have better if I hade made that putt on the last but I have to pleases with my performance as this is the first time that I have made the cut at a Challenge Tour event.”
Gane has spent the last six years or so making cuts on the Challenge and European Tours. The left-hander from London, who won his card for The European Tour through the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2001, posted a 67 in the tough conditions to join Domingo in a tie for second place.
“I’ve got a good chance tomorrow,” said Gane. “I have been in contention a few times now this season and have had a few top tens, but I feel that it’s time to get the job done.”
Argentina’s Gustavo Acosta, Panu Kylliäinen of Finland and Spain’s Juan Parron a stroke behind Domingo and Gane on 11 under, with a further seven men tied on nine under.