Garcia in lead at Andalucia Masters

Sergio Garcia took a two-shot lead after a third-round 67 at the Andalucia Masters on Saturday, putting him in position for a second successive European Tour victory.

Garcia even removed his shoes and socks for a shot during an eventful 4-under round that moved him to 6 under for the tournament, ahead of Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) and Sweden’s Christian Nilsson, who matched the lowest round played this weekend with a 6-under 65.

Overnight leader Richie Ramsay of Scotland bogeyed the last two holes for a 1-over 73 that left him three strokes adrift at 3 under.

Garcia’s impressive run in Spain continues after the 31st-ranked player won last weekend’s Castello Masters to end a near three-year run without a title.

Garcia nearly hit a hole-in-one at No. 6 as he collected one of six birdies at the famed Valderrama course.

”It’s been a very positive day, a really solid round,” Garcia said. ”That birdie at No. 6 was important after three-putting the fifth for a bogey, and to also finish off with a birdie at the 18th following that bogey at 17, those are the kind of things that keep you at the top.”

Garcia drove the bunker at the par-5 17th and looked to have found the lake guarding the green with his second shot. But his ball came to rest on a rock and he strode into the pond in his bare feet to play from the hazard, missing the green and then failing to get up and down.

But playing partner Ramsay also failed to make par at the Los Gabiones’ hole for Garcia to keep his two-shot advantage.

”It obviously was risky, but I liked my chances better from there to get up and down than the drop zone,” said Garcia, who has finished runner-up at Valderrama three times prior. ”Tomorrow’s going to be a very tough day, we all know how difficult Valdarrama is, at any moment it can catch you.”

Like Garcia, Jimenez is looking to become the first Spaniard to win a stroke play event at the cork tree-lined course, and the cigar-puffing Jimenez holed a pitch shot for an eagle-3 at the No. 4 before claiming another eagle at the 11th after rolling in a two-footer following a near perfect 246-yard approach shot.

”I need to hole some more putts,” Jimenez said on the European Tour’s official website. ”I’m not on good terms with my putter these days. We are fighting a battle and the putter is going to lose.”

Nilsson birdied four straight holes on the front nine and used birdies at the ninth and 13th to get within two of Garcia.

”It was a fun day on the course today, one of my best rounds this year, or ever, maybe,” Nilsson said. ”I’m just on the bubble to making the Race to Dubai final, so I need something good this week. I’ve put myself in a good position, so it’s going to be a big day for me tomorrow, interesting and quite nervous, I guess.”

English player Steve Webster (66) trailed Garcia by six shots, while Stephen Gallacher (70), Alejandro Canizares(71) and Shane Lowry (71) were all at 1 over.

Garcia will qualify for next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai with a victory.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell was at 14 over after a round of 81.