Padraig Harrington watched his playing partner, Francisco Cea, bogey the final two holes at Circolo Golf, Torino, and that enabled the 28-year-old Irishman from Dublin to take a one stroke lead into the final round of the Fiat and Fila Italian Open.
Harrington, seeking his second European Tour title three years after achieving his initial breakthrough win in the 1996 Spanish Open, shot a third round 68 for a 14 under par total of 202.
He holds the narrowest possible advantage over Spaniard Cea (71) and Scotland’s Dean Robertson (68), who both finished on 203, 13 under par, and are both chasing their maiden victory on the Tour.
Harrington looked like having to settle for second place going into the last day, but 25-year-old Cea – who lives on the Parador course in Malaga where his father is the greenkeeper – bunkered his tee shots at the last two holes and dropped strokes.
He said: “I didn’t play anywhere near as well as I did the past few days. Today was a bit scrappy. I tended to be coming in from the semi-rough and only gave myself half the chances I had in the previous round. I’m not surprised to be leading, though. Fourteen under par is a good return for three rounds.”
Robertson, 28, started and finished with a bogey but in between times bagged four birdies and an eagle to force his way into contention. Three times Robertson has been close before – most notably in last season’s Volvo PGA Championship when he was one ahead with five to play.
He said: “You’ve got to get into these positions regularly to know what to do under pressure when the adrenalin is flowing. I don’t do that enough. It’s about time I started to do something about it and this week is a step in the right direction.”
Cea, despite his slips at the finish, insisted: “I am not too disappointed. I played well but made two mistakes at the end. I feel I can still win the tournament.”
Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez lies in fourth place on 204 with England’s Gary Evans in 205 after a fighting 68 in the third round.