Padraig Harrington took a six-stroke lead into the final 18 holes of the Spanish Open in Madrid yesterday after shooting 67 in the third round early in the day.
The 24-year-old former Walker Cup player, in only his ninth European tour event, admitted to feeling "very, very nervous" when he started the first of two rounds on the final day after play was washed out on Saturday. Yet he produced the lowest score of the third round to move within sight of a victory would put him second in the Order of Merit.
After a further two-hour delay because of fog, Harrington, who shot 64 on Friday, bogeyed the short 11th, his second hole, but then secured six birdies to leave the field trailing. He settled down for a half-hour break before starting the closing 18 holes on 15-under-par 201.
Spain's Pedro Linhart moved into second place on nine under with a 69. Gordon Brand, Peter O'Malley, Per Haugsrud and Mathias Gronberg were a stroke further back.
Harrington's advantage was the biggest that anyone has held with a round to go on the tour this season, but Greg Norman failed to win the Masters after being six clear of Nick Faldo at the same point.
The early bogey came when he pushed a four-iron right of the green at the 214-yard 11th, but he birdied the next three holes and said later: "That settled me down."
For the second round running, he almost holed in one on the 163-yard 17th, the ball landing within a foot of the cup but spinning back to four feet. He holed that to turn in 33 and on the front nine added further birdies fourth and seventh.
There was a spring in his step when he finished his round as he leapt a small fence in front of the recorder's tent. As he grabbed a snack, Harrington learned that his lead had increased to seven, because Linhart dropped a shot at the second.
The rewards for Harrington winning were more than just the cheque. He would secure his tour place until the end of next season, would have a place in this week's pounds 700,000 Benson and Hedges International and next week's pounds 1m Volvo PGA championship.Reuse content