Sergio Garcia blew his chances of becoming only the first man to win consecutive Qatar Masters titles as four players shared the lead after the third round in Doha on Friday.
Garcia shot a five-over par 77 in benign conditions at the Doha Golf Club – his aggregate of one-under 215 a whopping 12 shots behind the leading quartet of Bernd Wiesberger, Marc Warren, Branden Grace and Emiliano Grillo.
The Spaniard, who had expressed his fondness for the Doha course before the tournament and had hoped to claim a slice of history by winning the event for the second time in succession, saw his dream vanish over the back nine as he shot two bogeys, one double bogey and a triple bogey on what was a perfect day for golf.
Austrian Wiesberger and South African Grace were part of a trio that held an overnight lead of one shot, but on Friday were joined at the top by Grillo of Argentina and Warren of Scotland on 13-under par 203.
That gave the four a two-stroke advantage over Englandâ€™s Eddie Pepperell, South African George Coetzee and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares, with first round leader Oliver Fisher a further two behind.
It was a neck and neck battle among the leaders for much of the day, with Wiesberger managing to edge ahead by a shot after the 12th hole before a bogey on the 16th allowed the others to catch up.
But it was Grace who produced the shot of the day after he drove the ball into the trees on the fifth hole.
The South African, however, still managed to snap-hook a wedge within about six feet of the hole for a birdie on the way to a fine 68 and a 13-under par total.
â€œI actually didn’t hit that bad a tee shot. I thought I was just in the rough on the right and must have had a big bounce to the right. Where it finished, I thought, this is going to take some magic,â€ Grace said.
â€œI could only hit a big, snapping hook with a wedge and when I hit it, I couldn’t see the ball. We heard the claps and next thing you know, managed to make a nice little five footer for birdie – that definitely got it kick started.â€
Wiesberger said he was happy to stay in contention although he rued a bad swing on the 16th hole that led to a bogey.
“It’s nice to start the day in the lead and hang on to keep it,” said the Austrian who has won two titles so far.
“Everybody seems to be playing really well and I enjoyed it out there. It was just that bad swing on 16 which cost me a bogey there, so it’s really a two shot swing on a short hole like that. I finished nicely with a birdie and it gives me a bit of momentum for tomorrow.”
Warren was also pleased with his effort.
“The last few years I’ve shown a lot of progress again. Came close a couple times. Didn’t quite go over the line and that was something that came quite easy, I suppose at the start of my career. Every time I was in contention, I seemed to win,” said the Scot.
“I’m confident in my ability to do that and it was nice to actually prove it again. It’s one thing to be confident and to actually do it is another thing. Definitely a spring in the step.”