CRANS-MONTANA, SWITZERLAND // Miguel Angel Jimenez kept his three-shot overnight advantage in the third round of the European Masters on Saturday despite a momentary lapse of concentration which cost the Spaniard a stroke. The leaderboard briefly recorded a four-under par 67 and an 18-under 195 total for a four-shot advantage over Ryder Cup teammate Edoardo Molinari of Italy. However, before he signed his card Jimenez called an extra shot on himself on the 10th, changing his total to 17-under and his score to 68, three ahead of Molinari and four better than the Italian teenager Matteo Manessore and the Briton Steve Webster.
"I just wasn't thinking, I accidentally picked my ball up on the 10th because I was near a sprinkler head," Jimenez said. "I said to myself 'what are you doing, you have to check if you can get relief first? I put it back in its correct place. So I gave myself a bogey on the 10th, a one-shot penalty" The 46-year-old veteran from Malaga knew it was going to be hard to get anywhere near the scintillating form he had shown the previous day when lowering the Crans-sur-Sierre course record by a stroke.
"It's always difficult to follow a score like that because it looks like nothing is happening," he said. "But I played very good, especially the first nine holes." A 15-foot birdie putt on the last at least cancelled out his aberration on the 10th. Now Jimenez, on his 22nd successive visit to Crans where he has finished second twice in the past, is on course to be the first European Tour player to win three times this season.
Molinari is bidding for the same feat and Colin Montgomerie's wildcard is somehow staying on Jimenez' shoulder despite his mammoth effort last week to win the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. His only dropped shot of the week and his first since the 14th at Gleneagles in the final round increased his chief opponent's advantage as Molinari battled to a 68. After a 69, Manessoro is still well on course for the top-five finish that will earn the 17-year-old his full tour playing rights next season.
Webster's 64 drew the Englishman through the field as he attempts to better his 109th place on the money-list to try to earn a spot in the big-money finale to the season, the Dubai World Championship. Amateur Nino Bertosi continued Italy's current golden run by carding a 66 to lie tied seventh on nine-under. * Reuters