Scotland's Alastair Forsyth birdied two of the last three holes in the deepening gloom at Club de Golf Valderrama to place an armlock on the Volvo Masters Andalucia going into a potentially thrilling final day on the Costa del Sol.
The 28 year old from Paisley fired a third round 67, completing his last five holes in a hurry after a suspension of one hour 26 minutes for an electrical storm over Valderrama threatened the final six pairs on the course into a Sunday morning resumption.
However the skies cleared, allowing play to resume at 6.33pm and an hour later Forsyth holed his four foot par putt for a 67 and a 54-hole total of 204, nine under par. His playing partner and joint halfway leader, Sergio Garcia of Spain, shot a level par 71 for 207 and was joined on that mark by England’s Ian Poulter who, like Forsyth, birdied the 16th and 17th.
Poulter ended an eventful day with a 69 while Frenchman, Christian Cévaër, lies in fourth place on 209, four under par, after a round of 70 with Swede Peter Hanson fifth on 210.
Forsyth, who won the Carlsberg Malaysian Open in 2002, now faces the biggest day of his career with the prospect of the biggest paycheck of €625,000, which would propel him beyond the €1 million mark for the season.
The Scot had just birdied the 11th and 13th when the storm struck, and on the resumption he promptly bogeyed the 14th. However putts from 20 feet and six feet respectively at the 16th and 17th helped him close out the stop-start day in style.
He said: “It would have been a pain to come back tomorrow morning so I was glad to finish, especially with a three shot lead. I’ve certainly not been in this positioning a tournament of this stature and I am sure I will be nervous tomorrow, but I handled it well before and one I got going (in Malaysia) I was fine.
“Three shots is certainly not enough around this golf course. Hopefully I can keep playing good solid golf and if it’s not good enough, so be it. This is a place where you have to play conservatively. You have to choose your moment to attack and if the weather is the same, I won’t change my game plan.”
Garcia, who started the round level with Forsyth, kept pace with his partner until bogeying the 12th and 13th, although a superb two at the 15th enabled him to finish the day with a smile on his face.
The Ryder Cup player said: “I spent about ten minutes waiting to putt on the 13th when we returned and made a bogey. That was a bit of a shame but all credit to Alastair. He played great – putted very nicely. However the one I missed on the 12th was a big momentum change.”
Poulter, who struggled to make a birdie putt on the front nine, finished strongly to force his way into the final group with Forsyth on Sunday, helped by a timely chip-in for a two at the 15th.
He admitted; “It’s always nice to be in the last group. You can see what’s happening and know what you have to do.”