Crans Montana: Miguel Angel Jimenez kept his three-shot overnight advantage after the third round of the European Masters on Saturday despite a momentary lapse of concentration which cost him a stroke.
The leaderboard briefly recorded a four-under 67 and an 18-under 195 total for a four-shot advantage over Ryder Cup team mate Edoardo Molinari of Italy.
However, before he signed his card Jimenez called an extra shot on himself at the 10th, changing his total to 17-under and his score to 68, three ahead of Molinari and four better than Italian teenager Matteo Manassero and Britain`s Steve Webster.
"I just wasn`t thinking, I accidentally picked my ball up on the 10th because I was near a sprinkler head," the Spaniard told reporters.
"I said to myself `what are you doing, you have to check if you can get relief first? I put it back in its correct place. So I gave myself a bogey on the 10th, a one-shot penalty"
The 46-year-old veteran from Malaga knew it was going to be hard to get anywhere near the scintillating 61 he fired the previous day when lowering the Crans-sur-Sierre course record by a stroke.
"It`s always difficult to follow a score like that because it looks like nothing is happening," said Jimenez. "But I played very good, especially the first nine holes."
A 15-foot birdie putt on the last at least cancelled out his aberration on the 10th. Now Jimenez, on his 22nd successive visit to Crans where he has finished second twice, is on course to be the first European Tour player to collect three wins this season.
Molinari is bidding for the same feat and European captain Colin Montgomerie`s Ryder Cup wildcard pick is somehow staying on Jimenez`s shoulder despite his mammoth effort last week to win the Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland.
His only dropped shot of the week, and his first since the 14th at Gleneagles in the final round, meant he had to settle for a 68 on Saturday.
"The front nine was flawless golf but on the back nine, especially after making bogey on 13, I felt tired all of a sudden," said the Italian.
"I wasn`t playing well and I was lucky to make some pars."
Manassero (69) is on track for the top-five finish that will earn the 17-year-old full tour playing rights next season.
Webster`s 64 drew the Englishman through the field as he attempts to better his 109th place on the money-list to try to earn a spot in the big-money finale to the season, the Dubai World Championship.
Amateur Nino Bertasio continued Italy`s golden run by carding a 66 to lie tied seventh on nine-under.