Ignacio Garrido led the Spanish Open by five shots midway through his third round in Seville today – but it was English amateur Danny Willett who produced the story of the day.
A chance to achieve the lowest round by an amateur in European Tour history slipped from the grasp of the 20-year-old Yorkshireman.
But an eight-under-par 64, only one short of the course record set by Garrido yesterday, was still further proof of what a rising star he is.
World number one amateur Willett, having made the halfway cut with nothing to spare, produced an eagle and eight birdies in the first 14 holes to charge from 59th place to third on his own.
Just one more birdie in the closing four and he would have matched the record 62 by Sven Struver at the 1989 German Open, but just as the television cameras arrived, the 20-year-old from Sheffield bogeyed the 15th and only parred the last three.
“It was a bit disappointing, but there are some tough holes coming in,” said Willett, who finished 19th in the Andalucian Open on his Tour debut in March.
The clergyman’s son, winner of the English amateur title last year and a member of the Britain and Ireland Walker Cup side that so nearly beat the Americans, has already added the Spanish and Australian strokeplay titles this season.
The first of those earned him a place at this week’s event and he added: “There’s a lot less pressure on me – I’m not playing for a mortgage.
“It’s good experience. I want to be out here with these boys at the end of the year.
“I was not thinking about a 59 (he would have had to birdie all the last four to be the first player to do that on the circuit). I was just trying to keep it going – I was on a really good roll.”
His nine-under aggregate for 54 holes was posted long before Garrido had resumed on 15-under and the former Ryder Cup player needed only an outward 35 to stretch his four-stroke overnight lead by one.
Garrido, just 19 days old when his father Antonio won the event in 1972, birdied the long fifth and parred the rest.
Swede Martin Erlandsson was out in 36 and had been joined in second place on 11-under by Dane Soren Hansen and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Darren Clarke’s 67 lifted him to eight-under, but Colin Montgomerie managed only a 74 to slip back to one-over.
In his first event after a five-week lay-off – he was married for a second time two weeks ago – he was only joint 66th of the 75 players who had made the cut.
Willett’s next few months will be spent mostly back on the amateur circuit, but he will mix it with the pros again in trying to qualify for both the US Open and Open Championship.