Catlin moves clear at Valderrama
John Catlin will go in search of his first European Tour win as he takes a two stroke lead into the final round of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters.
The American, who has four Asian Tour titles to his name, started the third day at Real Club Valderrama two shots ahead of a chasing pack and had briefly increased his lead to three after a birdie on the eighth hole.
But the notoriously tricky 1997 Ryder Cup venue showed its teeth on the back nine as he came home two over par to sign for a one over 72 and a two under total - meaning he enters the final round as the only player under par.
Catlin is just two strokes ahead of former World Number One and two-time Major Champion Martin Kaymer. The German, who has stated that one of his career ambitions is to win at Valderrama, carded a two under par round of 69 to move back to level par.
In a share of third on one over are 2014 Ryder Cup player Jamie Donaldson and Lorenzo Gagli of Italy, who celebrated his first European Tour hole-in-one with an ace on the 203-yard 12th hole. Sami Välimäki, winner of the Oman Open back in March, is a stroke further back on two over par.
John Catlin: “I hung in there really well. I was hitting the ball pretty solidly, I was just having trouble getting it really close to the hole like I had the first couple of rounds. I made some really nice three to eight footers for par to keep the momentum going.
"It would have been nice to finish off a little better. I actually thought I hit a pretty decent shot there into 17, missed it by a yard and a half – that’s how this course can be sometimes. You hit a pretty good shot and you’re just a little bit off and it can make you pay. It made me pay there, but having a two shot lead going into the final round on such a difficult golf course – I’m really happy.
"The mental side is very important – you’re going to hit good shots and not end up in good spots and you’re going to need to be able to bounce back, keep your metal focus in the right place. That can be tough, but I’m proud of what I was able to do from that side of things and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
"It’s very difficult to win, it doesn’t matter what tour you’re on. Having that winning experience gives me a lot of confidence so I’m going go out, give it my all and see where everything lands.”
Martin Kaymer: “I made very few mistakes this week, couple of bad tee shots that created a couple of double bogeys in the first two rounds. Besides that I hit a couple of very good iron shots, I made the up and downs when I needed to make then, especially yesterday to keep a decent round going.
"Today I created enough chances. It was very difficult today I think to make putts because they put the pins in some very tricky positions. It was very firm around the greens, almost burnt, so you can’t really be that aggressive. I played smart and avoided the mistakes.
"Winning in Valderrama was always one of my goals, one of my dreams. The first time I came here in 2007, I pulled the card myself in my practice round and that was one of the most enjoyable practice rounds I’ve ever had because it was just you and Valderrama. To win here would be something very special.”
Lorenzo Gagli: “It was a perfect shot, four iron. The wind was into from the left. I hit a perfect shot, a little low with a little draw and it landed just at the front of the green and rolled in. I think it’s my first.
"This is the third day in tough conditions on a really tough golf course. Anything can happen, you can make birdie, bogey or double bogey with the same shot. You have to stay patient and I’m happy with my game. I hit the ball nicely over the three days, I think I missed three or four tee shots today but that can happen.
"I didn’t know this was coming. I’m happy with my results this year, everything is going in the right direction. The long game is good, the short game is getting better, the putter is getting better than last year. Everything is going in the right direction so I just have to wait and play every day the same.
"It’s going to be a great day tomorrow but on this golf course you have to play shot by shot, stay patient and I’m happy to be in contention again.”
Jamie Donaldson: “It’s just really tough out there. It’s tough anyway, but when you’ve got this 20-30 mile per hour wind gusting, it’s very difficult. Paying golf here is a bit like playing chess on a golf course. It’s very strategic and you’ve got to plan your way around, put it in the right positions all the time.
"A couple of times I hit really great shots – I hit a great shot on two which I thought was perfect and it was slightly blocked out by a tree and if it goes ten yards further or less you’re fine but you’re suddenly blocked out by a tree from what you thought was a good shot.
"It would be lovely to win. I’ve got a medical exemption next year for the early part of the season so the only way I can change that now, before the season starts, is by winning. I’ve got four chances over the next four weeks to do that so I’ve got to go out there and play really well tomorrow to make that happen.”
The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, an event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by the EU, declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Spanish Government. This tournament is also supported by Rolex, Exterior Plus, Santander Private Banking and Shell. Callaway, Coca-Cola, Enterprise, Grupo Raga, Kyocera, Marca, Maui Jim, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf, Riversa, Varma and Volvo are official suppliers.