Tight tussle at the top at Valderrama

10/30/2010 5:05:40 PM
Graeme McDowell  (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)

Graeme McDowell and Gareth Maybin share the lead heading into the final round of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters following an incident-packed day in Sotogrande.

The Northern Irish duo enjoyed an entertaining battle throughout round three, which began with McDowell two shots ahead of his fellow countryman on seven under.

The US Open champion looked set to retain that advantage heading into Sunday’s play, but a double bogey at 18 saw him slip back alongside Maybin on six under.

Maybin is seeking his first European Tour title and showed admirable resolve to bounce back from bogeys on his first two holes with birdies at the third, fourth and ninth.

He parred every hole thereafter to complete a fine round of 70, his solid scoring in sharp contrast to McDowell - who mixed five birdies with two bogeys and two double bogeys in a topsy-turvy 72.

McDowell admitted: "It was an emotional rollercoaster out there. There was a stretch of four or five holes where I was all over the place.

"Then I really steadied the ship again - I birdied 13, had a great chance on 14, birdied 15, got up and down on 16 and birdied 17.

"I was stood on the 18th fairway thinking ‘this is great, just finish the job’ and I walked off with a six.

"It was a very careless way to finish. But there was enough good golf to make me happy.

"I’m in a great position going into Sunday afternoon with a chance to win a golf tournament which is where I want to be."

Maybin was satisfied with his third-round performance, particularly given the windy conditions that made scoring increasingly difficult.

"It was a rough enough start (with the two bogeys), but then I battled back and really knuckled down," he said.

It can be pretty brutal when the wind blows, so to shoot under par was a good result."

On his tussle with McDowell, Maybin added: "He’s probably one of the hottest players in the world right now so to go out there and get a result against him, I’ll take a lot from it.

"I’ve had a couple of chances (to win tournaments) over the last couple of years, but this is one of the most prestigious golf tournaments on one of the most prestigious golf courses, so if I could get a victory here it would mean a lot."

Ireland’s Damien McGrane and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez share third place on two under following rounds of 70 and 71 respectively.

On a day where nobody in the field managed to keep a bogey off their card, Sergio Garcia proved steadier than most as he posted a 69 to move into a tie for fifth.

The Spaniard’s only dropped shot came at the ninth, with birdies at five, 11 and 13 lifting him to one under for the tournament.

Garcia said: "We all know how difficult this course is, particularly the back nine, and I am happy the way I played.

"I felt very at ease, very calm and confident, and that means a lot to me, as it was not an easy day."

Alongside Garcia was Thomas Bjorn, who mixed four birdies with four bogeys in a 71.

But Sweden’s Niclas Fasth - who had occupied third position following a 66 in round two - slipped out of contention with six bogeys on the back nine.

Anthony Kang and Soren Kjeldsen fired the lowest rounds of the day - their 68s taking them to level par and one over respectively.

Kang had looked likely to be closer to the leaders, but a double bogey-birdie-bogey finish stunted his progress.

Race to Dubai leader Martin Kaymer showed signs of improvement in a third round 70, but it appears he will have to wait for another chance to claim the World Number One ranking.

Kaymer needs to win or share second place with no more than one other player if he, rather than the absent Lee Westwood, is to succeed Tiger Woods when the American's 281-week reign ends on Monday, but the German is nine behind the leaders on three over.