After a mammoth tussle on moving day at Karen Country Club, the Spaniard’s three under par 68 elevated him to the top alongside Sluiter on ten under, three shots clear of the nearest challengers.Sluiter, the overnight leader after the second round, maintained his grip on the top spot thanks to a birdie at the last which helped him to a two under par 69.
It was only a spectacular monster putt which separated the two young stars - who have been friends since their youth - on day three as Garcia Pinto brought cheers of elation from the local crowds by rolling in a 60-footer for birdie at the 16th.The Girona native had gotten off to a perfect start with two birdies in the opening two holes and although he dropped shots at the fourth and ninth holes to reach the turn in level par, the 23 year old rallied to card back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th before his “piece de resistance” at the 16th.
“I am really happy with the way I played today,” said Garcia Pinto. “I started with two birdies once again and I was making all my putts and playing really nicely.“Then I missed two putts towards the turn and it was difficult after putting so well all week but I made a great up and down at 12 for birdie and I started to enjoy it again.
“I loved the support of the people today. I have never seen such support on the Challenge Tour and it has been incredible. Playing with Tim, who is my friend since I was young, was also great. I think it the most enjoyable round I have ever played in my whole life.“I feel a connection with the people here so it is an incredible feeling. You can’t imagine how much I am looking forward tomorrow. I’ll just try to play as I have been playing and I'm not going to think about winning or not winning, I'm just going to enjoy the day and try to play my best.”
Sluiter was also relishing the friendly rivalry at the sun-drenched Nairobi venue and although he could not quite emulate his course record second round of 65, he was happy with how he played and is thoroughly looking forward to the final round
“It was really fun,” said the 23 year old, who just missed out on a first Challenge Tour win at the 2012 Open de Lyon - losing out to Chris Doak in a play-off. “It’s great playing with Jordi, he is great fun and pleasant to be around so I really enjoyed it. It’s a good rivalry.
“It was a pretty unspectacular front nine and then I birdied the 11th. I got really unlucky at the par five 15th - I hit a great bunker shot but it was a bit too firm and it hit the pin and dropped beside the hole for an easy birdie.“I'm happy to be up there and playing for it. I feel good about my game and it’s good to get these opportunities to be up at the top early in the season so you can have experience for the rest of the year.
“There were so many people here so it was great and hopefully they’ll all come and support me and Jordi tomorrow. Everybody cheered for the both of us so that was great, they just want to see the putts go in no matter who it is.”Brooks Koepka of the USA and Scotland’s George Murray were in tied second place on seven under after they carded rounds of 68 and 71, respectively.