Bernard Langer's last pick for the Ryder Cup, Luke Donald, produced a spectacular third round of 65 in the Euro-pean Masters here yesterday to give two of his more distinguished European team-mates plenty to think about on the final day.
Sergio Garcia let a three-shot lead slip to allow his Spanish compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez to head the leaderboard, as well as putting himself under pressure from Donald. Not many people expected the wild card to challenge the young Spaniard, especially as he sat three shots behind his friend. But Donald dug deep, and despite dropping shots at the fourth and the 13th, the 26-year-old hit seven birdies and an eagle, though a bogey at the last cost him a share of the lead.
His rise through the field was helped by an inconsistent round from Garcia, who had looked so in control of his game during the first two days. His collapse was even more remarkable because he started with an eagle three and followed with three more birdies before the turn. But the Spaniard, also 26, went on to drop three of his four dropped shots on the back nine before preventing a disaster with two late birdies.
Donald shot the joint-best score of the tournament and believes he will need to repeat it today. He felt the bogey at the 18th, which prevented him finishing top of the leaderboard, took the gloss off what would have been a perfect round.
"I am right where I need to be," he said. "I will probably have to shoot a round as good as I did today because there are a lot of birdies out there. But the last today was very disappointing, because I thought I played it perfectly and hit a really good shot, so I didn't deserve a bogey."
Langer will be delighted to see three of his Ryder Cup players at the top of the leaderboard on the final day, and Donald added: "It's great news for Europe - a lot of Europeans are playing very well right now, which is good going into the Ryder Cup. Confidence and playing well is a huge thing - and everybody's playing well."
Four shots behind Jimenez lies Ernie Els, looking to emulate Seve Ballesteros over a quarter of a century ago by defending the title. Those ahead of him know he cannot be written off, with Els having produced a bogey-free 66 yesterday.Reuse content