Sergio Garcia took another big step on the comeback trail with a 64 in Munich today – and now hopes to rescue a place in next month’s Open at Sandwich.
Six strokes behind at the halfway stage of the BMW International Open, Garcia charged all the way into the lead with a nine-birdie display.
With low scoring the name of the game, however, the 31-year-old would have expected to have more catching up to do in the final round.
A top four finish could give Garcia – seventh in last week’s US Open – one of two Open Championship places up for grabs from a mini-money list that has been running on the European Tour for the past month.
“I knew for British Open purposes I needed to do something special,” said the Spanish star, who a month ago pulled out of a qualifying event in America after five holes because of an infected fingernail.
“I don’t expect to be in the lead going into tomorrow, but at least I have a chance.
“Last week was good – it was nice to be up there in a major again.
“I didn’t have a chance to win because Rory (McIlroy) was playing out of his mind, but it feels like the game is coming along and I think my putting is definitely improving.”
Garcia, who made it into the US Open only through a qualifying play-off, has not missed a major since the 1999 Open – the one in which he finished dead last after rounds of 89 and 83 at Carnoustie.
He was second in the world behind Tiger Woods two years ago, but then fell outside the top 80 and even took time out late last season to try to rediscover his love for the game.
After two early birdies he had more four more in a row around the turn, picked up another on the 13th, then drove the green at the par four 16th and two-putted.
His one bogey came after he went over the green on the short next, but another two-putt birdie on the par five last put the smile back on his face.
England’s Robert Coles and Mark Foster were alongside him on 12 under par – and compatriot Lee Slattery would have been on the same mark but for a penalty on the 16th fairway.
There had been placing of the ball because of the wet conditions on the first two days, but not for the third round and Slattery momentarily forgot.
“I put a tee peg in the ground and my caddie shouted ’Stop’, but as he said it I picked the ball up,” explained the Southport golfer.
“It was just one of those unfortunate things. I’ve been playing preferred lies the last three weeks and some other guys have done it as well today.”
However, he chipped in for par, holed a bunker shot at the next and then birdied the last as well by getting up and down from sand.
Overnight leaders Henrik Stenson and George Coetzee both started with 10 successive pars, but while Coetzee then birdied the long 11th to be only one back Stenson put two balls in the lake there and three-putted for a quadruple bogey nine.
South African Coetzee and Slattery were joint fourth with Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal and twice US Open champion Retief Goosen, who made a 15-foot eagle putt on the 16th.