Defending champion Sergio Garcia opened up a four-shot lead to take command going into the final round of the weather-shortened Andalucía Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.
Garcia shot a bogey-free round of 64 to get to ten under par at the end of round two as he seeks his third win at this event, with first-round leader Ashley Chesters of England his nearest challenger at six under par.
A series of weather delays on the first two days prevented Garcia – who also won the 2011 edition of the Andalucía Valderrama Masters – from playing at all on Friday. After more inclement weather disrupted the early starters again on day three, it already been announced that the event would be reduced to 54 holes before he began his second round on Saturday afternoon.
Garcia made a fast start when he got out onto the course, chipping in from just off the second green to pick up his first shot of the day as he went on to fire seven birdies to match his lowest-ever score at Real Club Valderrama.
Spanish pair Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño and Scot Marc Warren are six shots off the lead, and two behind Chesters, at four under par. Fernández-Castaño and Warren came into the week sitting at 125th and 144th respectively in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex and require a strong finish to retain their playing privileges.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Englishman Lee Westwood are one shot further back on three under par, with French pair Grégory Bourdy and Raphael Jacquelin amongst a group of eight players at two under par.
Sergio García: “The conditions were pretty favourable; I did see a four or five under if you play well, but it was one of those days when I struck the ball really, really well. Every time I had to get up and down I did and I was very consistent throughout the whole day, which obviously makes a big difference.
“I love how this course plays; it’s not a long golf course but you have to be very accurate. Unfortunately a lot of the courses we play nowadays it’s just grab your driver, hit it as hard as you can and that’s it. The beautiful thing about this golf course is that you have to think your way around; you pretty much play every club in your bag.
“Obviously, we would have loved the tournament to go 72 holes but unfortunately we can’t control the weather and it’s been a little bit rough for us this week. We tried to make the best decision possible and tomorrow we have to play hard.”
Ashley Chesters: “There’s only one round to go and I’m not too far off the lead. I’ve got a bit of making up to do, so I don’t know if going to 54 holes makes much difference.
“There’s always a chance. There’s not a lot of pressure on me. I’ve had a decent year, I’ve got my card sorted, and I’ve got the last few events to aim to get in to if I can have a good week here. I’ve not really got a lot to lose so I can have a go tomorrow and see what happens.
“I’ll be playing with Sergio, who was always one of my favourite players when I was growing up. I would imagine there will be quite a lot of Spanish people hoping he will win, so I would imagine it will be a bit different tomorrow.”
Marc Warren: “It’s been a long two rounds of golf with all the delays we’ve had, but really pleased with the position I’m in. Four under after two rounds here is very pleasing.
“I think if you’re in a good position close to the lead, 54 holes benefits you, you have 18 holes left to try to win the tournament. I think everyone understands the position the tournament director has been in this week with the weather. It’s been really tough but the whole staff, from green staff and everyone have done a great job to get us out there. The course is unbelievable. I think anywhere else we would be off already.”
Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño: “My goal this week was to finish in the top 15, that would probably keep my playing rights for next year. I think I gave myself a very good chance of doing that, going into the last round. Even maybe a chance of winning the tournament.
“I’m a member here, but you very rarely play this course in these soft conditions. I was hoping for Valderrama playing at it’s best, and by that I mean when it’s firm, fast, windy. We had none of that this week.
“I’ve won the Italian Open and the Singapore Open, they were both 54 holes, so I do have good memories of playing 54 holes. But I have to give the European Tour staff a lot of credit this week, because I think they did a great job, especially yesterday when they stopped play before we restarted this morning.”
The Andalucía Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio García Foundation is sponsored by the Council of Tourism and Sport of the Junta de Andalucía through the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union, with the added institutional support of the Diputación de Cádiz, the San Roque City Council, the Royal Andalusian Golf Federation and Marbella Tourism Board. It also enjoys the support of La Reserva de Sotogrande, Rolex, Heineken, Dubai Duty Free, Santander Private Banking, Shell, Exterior Plus and Samsic Iberia. Only Water, Grupo Hospitalario Quirónsalud, Coca-Cola, Varma, Korporate Technologies Group and Volvo are official suppliers.