Golf: Olazabal fights back to keep Els in sight: Spaniard's bold recovery electrifies German Masters

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The Independent Online
JOSE-MARIA OLAZABAL produced a stroke of genius yesterday to show Ernie Els that he was not prepared to hand the South African the German Masters title without a fight.

In a head-to-head contest between this year's US Open champion and the US Masters champion, Els recovered to re-establish his grip, but then Olazabal hit back again.

The 28-year-old Spaniard, who had been seven shots adrift of Els at the half-way point, will go into the final round today only three behind following a marvellous finish.

After hitting his tee shot into the lake at the 148-yard 17th, Olazabal took a penalty drop and chipped in to save his par. Then he struck a six- iron to 12 feet for a closing birdie and a round of 66.

'I think the chip was a very important shot,' said Olazabal, remembering that he came from three behind Els to win the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth in May.

'I thought I was giving him the tournament when I went into the water. If I'd finished five behind, it would have been virtually impossible to catch him. It's certainly a lot more interesting now than it was yesterday.'

Els, who had opened with a course record 63 and a 64, returned a 70 for a 19-under-par total of 197.

'In the final round it's different. You just go out and almost play matchplay,' Els, who is joining the United States tour next season, said. 'It would be really nice to do it tomorrow and say farewell to you guys with a win.'

Seve Ballesteros shot 65 to move into third place at 13 under and Nick Faldo had a 67 to lie joint fourth, a stroke further back with Kent's Peter Mitchell, the Spaniard Jose Rivero and Sweden's Per- Ulrik Johansson.

Faldo's round included a three-wood shot from the bank of a bunker, which finished only three feet from the eighth flag for an eagle.

'Ernie has given us half a chance,' he said. 'But if he goes back into the mode he was in in the first two rounds, we are in serious trouble.'

Ballesteros, second and third in the last fortnight and top of Europe's Ryder Cup table, did not drop a stroke in his 65 and revealed that he had a special reason to convert his 12-foot birdie chance on the 18th.

As he played the hole, he asked his Yorkshire caddie, Billy Foster, if he needed a cashmere jacket. There is one on offer for the best round each day and Ballesteros knew he could win it with a birdie.

'I said I would make three and give it to him,' Ballesteros said. The ball disappeared into the hole and a broad smile broke out across the 37-year-old Spaniard's face.

MERCEDES GERMAN MASTERS (Motzener See, Berlin) Leading third-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 197 E Els (SA) 63 64 70. 200 J-M Olazabal (Sp) 67 67 66. 203 S Ballesteros (Sp) 68 70 65. 204 J Rivero (Sp) 70 69 65; N Faldo 69 68 67; P-U Johansson (Swe) 69 68 67; P Mitchell 66 70 68. 205 E Darcy 70 69 66; P Baker 66 70 69. 206 R Claydon 64 73 69; S McAllister 69 68 69; A Hunter 66 70 70; V Singh (Fiji) 66 70 70. 207 G Turner (NZ) 72 69 66; R Davis (Aus) 67 73 67; T Gogele (Ger) 69 70 68; E O'Connell 67 72 68; S Struver (Ger) 67 70 70; B Langer (Ger) 69 68 70; J Van de Velde (Fr) 69 68 70. 208 R Chapman 70 71 67; P Fulke (Swe) 69 71 68; S Luna (Sp) 70 67 71. 209 P O'Malley (Aus) 71 72 66; C Cassells 71 70 68; F Lindgren (Swe) 75 66 68; M Mouland 71 70 68; M A Martin (Sp) 68 71 70; M Sunesson (Swe) 70 68 71; S Richardson 66 72 71; S Ames (Trin) 67 71 71. 210 S Torrance 68 74 68; S Lyle 67 74 69; M Davis 70 71 69; D Hospital (Sp) 71 69 70; C Mason 69 71 70; M Lanner (Swe) 71 69 70; A Sherborne 70 68 72. 211 D Smyth 66 77 68; D J Russell 71 70 70; C Rocca (It) 71 69 71; I Woosnam 68 71 72.