The longest barren spell of Sergio Garcia’s career looks certain to end in front of his home fans in Castellon tomorrow.
Almost three years after he went to world number two with his 18th professional victory, Garcia takes a massive eight-shot lead into the final round of the Castello Masters on the Mediterraneo course where he was club champion at 12.
The 31-year-old Spaniard, who fell outside the game’s top 75 and lost his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup side last season, produced a third round 64 to reach 19 under par.
Having shot 63 on Friday, they were the best back-to-back rounds of Garcia’s life.
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee moved into second place with a 66, while third on 10 under is England’s Ross McGowan and joint fourth one further back are Scot Richie Ramsay, Englishman Anthony Wall and Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Garcia, two in front of Alex Noren at halfway, made a slow start, but so did the Swede.
Noren followed his playing partner’s bogey on the third by taking six at the long fourth – and then lost a ball en route to a double-bogey seven on the 549-yard eighth.
In contrast, Garcia ignited his round with a 15-foot putt for birdie at the seventh and made another for eagle on the next after a glorious three-wood approach.
What looked to be the crucial stretch, however, came in the middle of the back nine when he made four birdies in a row from the 13th. The icing on the cake was another at the last.
The performance has been coming for a while. After seeming to sort out his troublesome putting by switching to a claw grip, he was seventh in the US Open in June and then lost a five-hole play-off to compatriot Pablo Larrazabal at the BMW International Open in Munich.
With a ninth place finish in The Open and 12th at the USPGA Championship he climbed back into the world top 50 and the title tomorrow could see him just outside the top 30.
Garcia told Sky Sports: “It’s well set up, but it’s not over. Anybody can shoot a round like I did the last couple of days.
“I will have to be very focused. Everybody is going to to try to attack me and I have to realise that.
“There are still a couple of things I would like to improve, but it’s obviously getting better and I have more and more confidence.”
On playing at home he added: “It’s just a special feeling. The only other time I get this is in the UK when I play the Ryder Cup or the British Open. The energy of the crowd is just amazing.”
While it is a big day coming up for Garcia it is a huge one for McGowan. In the hunt for a Ryder Cup debut until wrist and shoulder injuries intervened last year, the Englishman is a lowly 163rd on this season’s money list. Only the top 115 retain their Tour cards.