Sergio Garcia continued his march towards a sixth European Tour victory on home soil after the local hero moved into the outright lead heading into the final day of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.
The reigning Masters Champion’s most recent home victory came the last time this tournament was played, in 2011 – also at Valderrama – and he moved one step closer to a third title of the season courtesy of a three under 68 to move to an eight under par total.
The 37 year old tournament host, who was this week awarded with Honorary Life Membership of the European Tour as well as of Real Club Valderrama, was followed by throngs of Spanish fans at the sun-kissed venue and he did not disappoint, starting strongly with birdies at the second and third.
While back to back bogeys pegged him back at the fifth and sixth, Garcia birdied the eighth to reach the turn in one under before further gains at the 11th and 14th, along with a bogey at the 15th, kept him in a share of the lead.
The 13-time European Tour winner had the crowd in raptures, however, on the par five 17th as a two-putt birdie earned him a one-stroke overnight advantage over Englishman Daniel Brooks, who significantly boosted his hopes of retaining his European Tour card for 2018 with a stunning seven under 64 to sit in second place outright.
Sergio García 68(-3) Total -8
“I think it was pretty solid. Got off to a great start with two, almost three, birdies in a row. Then I unfortunately I missed a couple of shots and made a couple of bogeys, but I stayed patient and made a good birdie on 8 and almost a great birdie on 9. On the back nine a couple of good saves and then a couple of nice birdies to finish with.
“I’m pleased with my patience; even on the tough moments I’m staying patient and waiting for my things to happen, and that’s what I want to keep doing.
“I’ll go out there tomorrow and try to post another under par round and see what happens. Brooks today shot 7 under, so good rounds are possible, but they have to be spot on. We know what Valderrama has in hand. I guess the way it’s playing you could go low, but everything has to go your way; you have to be spot on, and the couple of shots you miss you have to get lucky and have guts or have really good lies in the rough – it’s not easy.
“Five wins in Spain would be a great achievement, but it’s still a long day ahead tomorrow and I can’t get too much ahead of myself. I’m excited to be up there, that’s where I want to be and I’ll try to do my best tomorrow.
“To see so many people follow was amazing. You have to give it up to the Spanish people to come out here and support and cheer us on.”
Daniel Brooks: “It’s possibly the best round of my life. There’s a lot of birdies out there and I played some really nice golf. It’s been quite similar all week, but I had a few silly bogeys. Today I managed to keep them off the card and ended up with a minus 7.
“I got to a quick start as I’ve been doing all week, but today I just kept it very steady. I hit a lot of good shots; it’s been like inside like six feet, eight feet all day. I’ve been hitting it a good distance off the tee, giving me a lot of wedge chances and my distance control has been really good, so hopefully I can go on like that.
“On this course you need to play aggressive to get into good positions off the tee, and then it’s a lot easier to attack. I f you play quite conservative it does becomes trickier and longer. This week I’ve been playing quite aggressive, I’ve been attacking pins, I’ve been playing nice golf.
“Around here, the moment you start hitting a few trees your head starts to go all over the place. Today was a lot calmer for me and I kept it in play. If I shoot anything under par tomorrow I will be quite happy.
“Coming here I knew that I needed a good week and I sort of accepted that I would probably have to go back to Q-School, so it’s a big bonus if I have a great day tomorrow.”