AS IMPRESSIVE AS it was, Sergio Garcia’s eleven-shot victory at last week’s Castello Masters didn’t come without an enormous, course-shaped caveat.
The tournament was held at Garcia’s golfing home of Club de Campo de Meditteraneo, the layout on which the Spaniard honed his world-beating game as a teenager.
Its claustrophobic mass of rolling fairways and small, undulating putting surfaces exaggerated the influence of Garcia’s ball-striking and rendered local knowledge invaluable.
If last week marked a first, tentative step on the road to rehabilitation, then, a victory for the Spaniard at this week’s Andalucía Masters would offer more convincing evidence of a return to form.
And, with only one round left to play, it’s Garcia who holds a two-shot advantage over the chasing pack.
The 31-year-old didn’t hesitate in taking advantage of a respite from the blustery conditions that rendered the first 36 holes a dour and attritional afffair, covering Valderrama’s eighteen holes in an impressive 67 shots, enough for an aggregate total of six-under-par for the tournament.
Hot on his heels is Sweden’s Christian Nilsson, who carded a remarkable six-under-par 65 in Saturday’s third round, and European Tour veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Former US Amateur champion Richie Ramsay, who held the overnight lead, lies a shot further adrift after recording a disappointing 73.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry lies in a tie for sixth place on one-over-par.