Cañizares in cruise control as Irish crash in Morocco
 Alejandro Cañizares. Picture © Getty Images

Alejandro Cañizares. Picture © Getty Images

Bad finishes rocked Irish hopes of big pay days in the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco.

As Spain's Alejandro Cañizares shot a 69 to take a six-shot lead into the final round in his bird for a first European Tour title for eight years, Michael Hoey, Damien McGrane and Shane Lowry all went backwards.

Hoey went from eighth to 38th on two under as he followed a one under par front nine with a homeward 41 featuring five dropped shots in his last four holes as he made a triple bogey eight at the 15th and also bogeyed the 16th and 18th for a disappointing 76.

Lowry, who dropped out of the world's Top-100 for the first time in 15 months a fortnight ago, was one under with two to play but ran up a seven at the 15th to card a 73 and share 55th on one over.

As for McGrane, the 42-year old from Kells came back from two early double bogeys to be level for his round with four holes to go.

 Damien McGrane birdies the 14th to get back to level par. Picture: Thos Caffrey /  www.golffile.ie

Damien McGrane birdies the 14th to get back to level par. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ie

But he also had a bad finish with bogey sixes at the 15th and 17th and a double bogey six at the last as he shot 76 to slip to 63rd on three over.

At the business end of the leaderboard, Cañizares extended his overnight lead from one shot to six over playing partner Seve Benson of England with Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen a further stroke back after his 67, which was the only bogey-free round of the day.

“It was tough today, especially on the front nine the pins were difficult to get close to and some even difficult to two-putt,” said Cañizares, whose only previous European Tour victory came in the Russian Open in 2006 on only his third start.

“It’s a good round, I kept it going. I was a little not so sharp off the tee today, my misses were right quite a bit so I have something to work on, but overall I’m happy to shoot a round in the 60s and hopefully tomorrow I will keep it going.”

Asked if he felt the tournament was now his to lose, Cañizares added: “In this game anything can happen. Everybody saw that you can go low on this golf course, I have to keep moving forward and not look over my shoulder.”

Three-time Challenge Tour champion Benson, who carded a round of 74 to slip back to 11 under par, will now need to make up a six shot deficit if he is to secure his maiden European Tour title.

He said: “I struggled really today just to get the ball pin-high. But I was happy with the way I came back with five or six holes to go, so there are positives going into tomorrow.

“I always know that if I am not playing well that my best golf is just around the corner, so I was just trying to stay patient. Tomorrow is another day and I am still feeling confident.

“The key will be to try to get a couple of shots back on Alejandro on the front nine, because that is the most difficult part of the course.”

 Shane Lowry and his caddie Dermot Byrne take a breather. Picture: Thos Caffrey /  www.golffile.ie

Shane Lowry and his caddie Dermot Byrne take a breather. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ie

Derksen is in third place on ten under par after signing for a flawless round of 67, the joint-best-of-the-day, in what is his last season on the European Tour.

Winner of the Dubai Desert Classic in 2003 and the Madeira Islands Open in 2005, Derksen has played more than 400 events and admits he has found it hard to remain motivated.

"Although I have pretty easy maintained my playing privileges every year, and have sometimes been close to win a tournament the last few years, it has been more difficult to keep myself motivated to perform on this level," he said in January when he announced he would retire at the end of the season.

"There's more to life than just golf, and I look forward to the future. For instance my own Golf Academy in Nunspeet which I set up with my putting coach a few years ago. Junior golf, golf course architecture and the business side of the golf are just a few things that are very appealing to me."

Trophée Hassan II (after 36 holes)

199 A Cañizares (Esp) 62 68 69,

205 S Benson (Eng) 63 68 74,

206 R Derksen (Ned) 69 70 67,

208 P Waring (Eng) 72 69 67, R Karlsson (Swe) 71 67 70, S Kapur (Ind) 70 71 67, M Carlsson (Swe) 65 71 72, D Horsey (Eng) 72 64 72,

209 R Bland (Eng) 69 70 70, M Warren (Sco) 66 73 70, W Ormsby (Aus) 68 71 70,

210 J Campillo (Esp) 71 69 70, R Rock (Eng) 71 68 71, R Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 68 67 75,

211 T Fleetwood (Eng) 66 72 73, G Bourdy (Fra) 68 69 74, A Levy (Fra) 70 72 69, R Ramsay (Sco) 72 71 68, A Sullivan (Eng) 66 73 72,

212 R Davies (Wal) 68 73 71, R Green (Aus) 70 73 69, D Drysdale (Sco) 73 67 72, F Fritsch (Ger) 72 70 70, S Dodd (Wal) 68 73 71, G Coetzee (RSA) 69 69 74, D Willett (Eng) 72 70 70, C Arendell (USA) 65 71 76, S Kjeldsen (Den) 74 70 68,

213 M Siem (Ger) 69 69 75, N Elvira (Esp) 70 75 68, J Morrison (Eng) 69 69 75, J Dantorp (Swe) 73 71 69, M Tullo (Chi) 74 69 70, T Lewis (Eng) 69 74 70, A Saddier (Fra) 72 72 69, L Bjerregaard (Den) 69 73 71, D Im (USA) 71 73 69,

214 B Rumford (Aus) 73 71 70, M Crespi (Ita) 71 74 69, B Wiesberger (Aut) 71 73 70, R Fisher (Eng) 70 73 71, T Hatton (Eng) 73 72 69, M Hoey (Nir) 68 70 76, G Bhullar (Ind) 67 73 74, S Dyson (Eng) 73 70 71, G Stal (Fra) 73 71 70, D Brooks (Eng) 72 70 72,

215 R Dinwiddie (Eng) 71 71 73, S Wakefield (Eng) 72 73 70, M Ilonen (Fin) 69 73 73,

216 J Lara (Esp) 72 73 71, E Goya (Arg) 73 69 74, D Howell (Eng) 72 69 75, G Havret (Fra) 72 71 73,

217 F Calmels (Fra) 70 74 73, A Kaleka (Fra) 72 73 72, S Lowry (Irl) 72 72 73, E Molinari (Ita) 73 70 74, M Kieffer (Ger) 71 72 74, K Broberg (Swe) 75 70 72,

218 R Kakko (Fin) 70 73 75, S Hansen (Den) 74 69 75,

219 D McGrane (Irl) 70 73 76, D Stewart (Sco) 71 74 74,

220 E De La Riva (Esp) 70 74 76, P Sjöland (Swe) 70 74 76, D Huizing (Ned) 74 70 76,

221 R Jacquelin (Fra) 71 71 79,

222 M Baldwin (Eng) 71 74 77,

224 E Dubois (Fra) 68 75 81, P Whiteford (Sco) 67 78 79,