Ignacio Garrido remained on course to create European Tour history when he maintained his dominance of the Open de España at the Real Club de Golf de Sevilla.
The 33 year old began the day with a four shot lead and had he holed his three foot par putt at the last in the third round, his advantage would have remained the same.
But the winner of the 2003 PGA Championship at Wentworth Club let his effort slip past the cup and he had to settle for a level par 72 for a 15 under par total of 201, three shots clear of fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez, who stormed into contention on 12 under par 204 after a fine 67.
However, Garrido is still in the box seat to pen another chapter in golf’s record books. Already there as one of only three father and son combinations to have won on The European Tour International Schedule – Craig/Kevin Stadler and José Maria/Alejandro Cañizares being the other two – should he claim the €333,330 first prize he would elevate that record to a new level.
For no father and son combination have ever won the same event on The European Tour but the Garridos can achieve that should Ignacio win on Sunday, for dad Antonio won the Spanish Open – the first official European Tour event – in 1972, just 19 days after Ignacio was born.
Garrido Jnr gave himself the chance of victory with a steady if unspectacular third round. His only departure from par on the outward half was a birdie at the fifth and his challenge was kept on track turning for home with fine par saving putts at both the tenth and 11th holes.
However a crack appeared on the par five 13th where a pushed drive into the bushes and a penalty drop led to a bogey six. He retrieved the shot with a birdie four at the 16th to restore his four shot lead before the unfortunate ending gave the chasing pack hope.
"It is not easy to lead the Open de Espana when you have never won it, but I felt good out there," he said. "Any professional in any sport, apart from the Majors, wants to win his own country's Open.
"I always say that golf is not like tennis in the fact I won't play against Miguel Angel tomorrow, I will play with him. He is a great person, a great player and a gentleman. I love to play with him and I think the public is going to love the last match out there on Sunday. I'd rather be in my position than his though and I think it is better to have him beside me rather than in the match ahead of me making birdies."
Fourteen time European Tour champion Jiménez thrilled the large galleries in Seville with a typically swashbuckling performance for his 67.
Four birdies in six holes from the fourth saw the 44 year old to the turn in 32 and although he narrowly missed his eagle putt from eight feet on the 13th, the resulting birdie four kept the man from Andalucia moving forward.
However, hard as he tried, he could not extract any further birdies from the Jose-Maria Olazábal designed course’s final five holes and, indeed, he did well to save par on both the 17th and 18th having been in the bunker from the tee on both holes.
“I played very well today,” said Jiménez. “I missed a couple of tee shots at the end but recovered well. I had many chances for birdies out there as well as a couple for eagles but five under par today is pretty good.
“I will enjoy very much playing in the final round with Ignacio. He has been playing very well this week and it looks like we will have a good day. The fans here have been great as well. They know me very well as I have played here for years – it is a very nice club.”
Leading the charge behind the main two protagonists are three players on 11 under par 205; England’s Mark Foster, Denmark’s Søren Hansen and Marco Ruiz of Paraguay, while five players share sixth place one shot further adrift; Sweden’s Martin Erlandsson, Australia’s Peter Fowler, Ireland’s Peter Lawrie, South Africa’s Andrew McLardy and Carlos Rodiles of Spain.
One shot behind that group, in a share of 11th place is the player who generated the main excitement early in the third round; English amateur Danny Willett.
The 20 year old from Sheffield illuminated the early part of the day with some scintillating golf and, although he narrowly missed out on achieving the lowest round by an amateur in European Tour history, his eight under par 64 was yet further proof of what a rising star he is.
Having made the cut with nothing to spare, the current Number One on The R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking produced an eagle and eight birdies in his first 14 holes to charge from 59th place to within sight of the lead.
Just one more birdie in the closing four and he would have matched the record 62 by Sven Strüver in the 1989 German Open, but just as the television cameras arrived, he bogeyed the 15th and only parred the last three.
It meant he also missed by one the course record 63 set by Garrido in establishing a four stroke halfway lead. "It was a bit disappointing, but there are some tough holes coming in," said Willett, who on his European Tour debut in March finished in a share of 19th place in the MAPFRE Open de Anaducia by Valle Romano.
The clergyman's son, winner of the English Amateur Championship last year and a member of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup side that so nearly beat the Americans, has already added the Spanish and Australian Stroke Play titles this season.
The first of those earned him a place in this week's event and he added: "There's a lot less pressure on me - I'm not playing for a mortgage. It's good experience. I want to be out here with these boys at the end of the year. I was not thinking about a 59 - I was just trying to keep it going. I was on a really good roll."
Willett began with three straight birdies, while a 330 yard drive and a six iron to eight feet for an eagle three on the ninth took him to the turn in 31. Then came four more birdies in a row from the 11th, but he found the rough off the tee on the 15th and caught a tree with his next shot.
Despite twice being in the rough on the long 16th, he had a seven foot birdie chance but missed.
And after holing a 25 footer for par at the difficult 17th, a closing 45 foot attempt to equal Garrido's record just failed.
Willett's next few months will be spent mostly back on the amateur circuit, but he will mix it with the professionals once again in a couple of months time when he tries to qualify for both the US Open and the Open Championship.
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