England’s Matthew Nixon holds a one-shot lead on eight under par going into the last round of the NH Collection Open after firing 65, the lowest score of the week.
Nixon, who before this tournament had made just one European Tour cut this year in finishing joint 27th at February’s Africa Open, holed a stunning nine birdies during a seven under total in Spain.
He dropped a shot at the par four second and the par five 11th, but otherwise was impressive on a much nicer day than the previous two.
“I really enjoyed it, the sun’s been shining and I played really nicely… I don’t remember much about it apart from the fact that I kept knocking them close and knocking the putts in,” he said. “If I could do that again tomorrow it would come in handy.
“Today the conditions are obviously a little better, but it was just one of them days. I had a nice start and it just kept going. Exactly the same day tomorrow would be nice!”
Nixon, never a European Tour winner and now into his fourth season, led by one shot from Italy’s Marco Crespi, who went round in six under. Although Crespi carded ten birdies, five consecutively from 13 to 17, he also hit four bogeys.
Crespi, twice a Challenge Tour victor, was one stroke clear of Chile’s Felipe Aguilar, who led midway through a round delayed to allow much of the field to complete their second round this morning.
Crespi said: “I am very happy because I played great all day long. Always in the middle of the fairway, hitting for the pin, just waiting for birdies - and finally they came, five in a row. And that’s it, that’s the way to make six under. I was patient; normally I am a very patient person.
“Tomorrow I am going to fight for the title, that’s for sure, and I am pretty confident because I am playing very good. The weather forecast is good and if it’s a day like this I think I can do well.”
Portugal’s Ricardo Santos was one behind Aguilar, in turn one ahead of a quartet on four under.
Aguilar said: “I played good from tee to green but not on the greens; I three-putted four times which is expensive. I don’t seem to get the right pace on long putts.
“The course is in excellent shape. As it dries out, the greens are becoming firmer and faster and even more challenging with the wind.”
Santos, who made five gains and no drops in his five under, said: “I played really solid today, amazingly, I didn’t miss a shot.
“I was very consistent off the tee, which is very important on this course and really solid into the greens. I putted quite well, not really well, but quite well.
“Today is warmer, with less wind but the course is still tough, specially the holes into the wind.
“The course is tough because we start with three very strong par fours and if you don’t start really well you are struggling. That’s probably the reason that we don’t have really low scores under the better conditions.”
In the group on four under is England’s David Horsey, one of three frontrunners following the second round along with Wales’ Bradley Dredge and Scotland’s Marc Warren.
While Horsey dropped one shot in his third round, Warren conceded three and Dredge six, the latter in part through two double bogeys in his first three holes.
Also on four under is Spain’s Adrian Otaegui, who led with Aguilar midway through the round.
Otaegui said: “It’s been a roller coaster round. I got a double (bogey) on the first after losing a ball, but came back with birdies on the second, seventh and eighth. I played nicely from tee to green.
“I made two bogeys on the back nine, missing two short putts but I played great shots into the greens and gave myself plenty of birdie chances. That’s all I need to remember.
“I expect lower scores tomorrow, as the course is in perfect condition and the wind is dropping.”
|T2||GARCIA PINTO, Jordi||ESP||18||-8|