From Brian Keogh at Valderrama
Padraig Harrington must go on the attack at Valderrama today to hang on to his Order of Merit crown.
The Dubliner’s hopes suffered a reverse in the Volvo Masters as Justin Rose battled back from a nightmare start to retain his four-shot lead entering the final round.
Four behind Rose at the start of a rollercoaster day, the Dubliner found himself level when he birdied the first and the English ace followed an opening bogey with a double bogey six.
But drawing on memories of his final round comeback at Augusta in April, Rose clawed his way back to play the remaining holes in three under par, saving par from eight feet at the last to match Harrington's level par 71.
Harrington said: "Four shots behind is a lot of ask going into the final round so I am a little disappointed. I needed to be a a little better.
"I was trying to focus on my own game, I was probably too aware of what he was doing and I am quite happy that I am not in the same group and I will be doing my own thing tomorrow and not watching what he is doing.”
Simon Dyson’s brilliant 69 means he will partner Rose in the final group with Harrington paired with Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who hit a best of the week 66, in the second last group.
Needing to beat Rose and finish third at worst to overtake Ernie Els, Harrington knows that he can claw him way back and take the title on a course where scores soared for the third day in a row.
“Any hole can yield a birdie or a double bogey,” Harrington said. “A lot change change very quickly. It is a long tough grind but Martin Kaymer shot five under today so a good score can be had.
"You can't wait for a mistake. I will try to be more aggressive tomorrow and hole like the fourth are holes you can go for in two early on.”
It took Harrington just two holes to eat up Rose’s four stroke overnight lead, threading his approach through the branches of a cork oak at the first and holing from 12 feet for a miraculous birdie as the Englishman three-putted from the apron.
Rose then clattered into the TV gantry behind the second green and duffed two chips from deep rough before two putting from 12 feet for a double bogey six.
Level now at one under par, Harrington handed the initiative to Rose with a careless bogey six at the par five fourth, where he carved his approach 50 yards right and came up short in the water with a tricky 45 yard pitch.
The Dubliner got that shot back straight away with a brilliant fairway bunker shot to 25 feet at the tricky fifth, but bogeyed the seventh after a pushed approach hit a fan on the arm.
Rose birdied the short eighth from close range after Harrington’s five foot birdie putt hit a spike mark and wobbled around the back of the hole.
But with his early hiccups now behind him, Rose birdied the 10th from 35 feet and 11th from five to regain his four stroke lead on four under par.
Needing birdies to reduce the gap to reasonable proportions entering the final round, Harrington drove into the trees at the 13th to drop another shot and fall five behind on one over par.
By this stage, Dyson had surged up the leaderboard to take over from the Dubliner in second place on level par thanks to a 69 that featured an incredible seven birdies.
Dyson’s round meant that Harrington needed to pick up two shots in his last three holes to claim a place in the final group with Rose but he finish birdie-par for a 71 that left them tied for second on level par.
After a brilliant up and down for par at the last, Rose said: "It was a heart attack start - a disastrous start. I had a sand wedge and a pitching wedge and made a five and a six. Not to drop a shot for the rest of the day was pretty unbelievable.
"I won't be changing anything tomorrow. Padraig is a fighter and he proves it. He digs in deep and never gives in. As I proved today, four shots is nothing round here and I have to play well.”
Paul McGinley’s hopes of using the Volvo Masters as a stepping stone to Ryder Cup glory were severely damaged by a third round 74 that dropped him from seventh to 10th on five over par.
But Ulsterman Graeme McDowell also slipped back from joint third to eighth after three over par 74 that was marred double bogey seven at the par-five 17th.
Just one over par for the day after chipping in for birdie at the 15th, McDowell found water with his approach to the par five and then went over the back of the green with his fourth,