Bradley Dredge of Wales, a professional for six years and still awaiting his first victory on The European Tour, birdied the final two holes at Valderrama to take a one stroke lead into the last round of the Volvo Masters Andalucia.
The 29 year old from Cardiff, making his debut in the tournament, edged past long time leader Angel Cabrera and past champion Colin Montgomerie with his outstanding finish, which brought a round of 71 in extremely demanding conditions and a three under par total of 210.
Dredge leads Cabrera and Montgomerie by one shot going into a potentially explosive last day with young Englishman Justin Rose in fourth on level par. Remarkably, one the leading three players are under par for the tournament while the swirling wind resulted in only two rounds under 70 all day.
Dredge showed commendable composure as he recovered from four putting the 14th for a double bogey six, making a good birdie at the 17th then knocking his approach to the 18th green within a few feet of the flag.
The affable Welshman is now in new territory, leading a tournament, and one of such high quality in the Volvo Masters Andalucia, after 54 holes, but he said: “I am really looking forward to tomorrow. It will be great. I’ve had a lot of top tens this year but I haven’t really been in contention.as many times as I would have like.
“I want to get into the top 15 in the Volvo Order of Merit, which is now a possibility. That is ultimately what you are looking for. Basically, though, it’s just the old adage of taking one shot at a time and getting on with it and trying to finish as high up as I can.”
Meanwhile Montgomerie, who had been eight strokes behind Cabrera after nine holes of the second round, caught the leader by the fifth hole of the third round thanks to birdies at the fourth and fifth. It seemed that the contest would become a head to head between the pair, but Dredge had other ideas.
Montgomerie, the champion in 1993, again displayed his affection for Valderrama with a round which perhaps deserved a greater reward. He bogeyed the 12th, missed a short putt for par at the 16th then saw his final birdie attempt at the last horseshoe out.
“I was four behind overnight and now I’m only one behind. That’s fine” said the Scot. “I like those conditions. Every shot is a challenge. Every shot is a potential disaster. You can’t relax. To me this is proper golf. I enjoy it a lot more than shooting 26 under to win.
“This was very difficult but it was playable. I’m now in the last group and playing with someone I’ve never played with before in Bradley. He is obviously doing very well and we’ll see what happens.”
His playing partner, Sergio Garcia, is not out of the reckoning either after taking a quadruple bogey nine at the fourth hole where he incurred a penalty shot for moving his ball while removing a twig, then putting his fifth shot into the water.
Garcia birdied two of the last six holes, including a 15 foot par saver at the last, for a round of 75 and one over par total of 214, the same score as another past winner, Bernhard Langer, who had looked a big danger until dropping shots at the 16th and 17th.
Darren Clarke also made ground on the par threes on the back nine which he covered in three under par. The Irishman made a two at the 12th then holed his five iron from211 yards for the second ace of his career at the 15th. That brought him back into contention at level par but Clarke stumbled at the close with successive double bogeys to finish.
The race for the Volvo Order of Merit title won’t be determined until the last day of the season. Going into the final round, Retief Goosen, currently leading the table, is one shot behind Number Two Padraig Harrington with 18 holes remaining.
Harrington, trailing Goosen by €23,119 (£14,538), needs an outstanding round to overhaul his only rival but he can take heart from the performance of Niclas Fasth and Graeme McDowell, the only players to break 70 with rounds of 69. Starting the day near the rear of the field, Fasth moved up to tied 14th with McDowell to tied 34th.
The Irishman, who shot a 74 for 224, 11 over par, said: “I would obviously need to improve substantially tomorrow. You never know. It’s a different day and we will see. Neither of us has played well but it’s still possible that I can do it.”
Goosen, still the favourite to prevail, was unhappy with his 78 for a total of 225. He said frankly: “If he beats me then I will tip my hat to him and say well done. If I win it, then I’ll consider myself lucky to win it”.