Canizares coughs up his French Open lead to Kaymer on final three holes

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Defendng champion Martin Kaymer inherited the 54-hole lead when Alejandro Canizares went into the water twice late on the back nine.
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PA Sport

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Published: Saturday, July 03, 2010 | 5:49 p.m.

Spaniard Alejandro Canizares went into the water twice on the last three holes Saturday to toss away a three-stroke lead at the Alstom French Open.

One of the most dramatic finishing stretches in European golf -- which could be the venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup -- claimed yet another victim and left defending champion Martin Kaymer in front with a round to go.

First Canizares, whose father Jose-Maria Canizares was a Ryder Cup hero at the Belfry in 1989, pushed his tee shot to Le Golf National's short 16th into the lake. Then, one ahead after a double bogey there, he failed to make the carry with his approach to the 470-yard 18th.

Dropping two more strokes there gave Canizares a 2-over-par 73, and on 8 under he now shares second place with England's Steve Webster, one behind Kaymer.

The German, who last year won the French and Scottish Opens back-to-back, needed only a level-par 71 to take over at the top, while Webster shot 70 on a day when the morning's play was washed out.

Kaymer, delighted with his position, said of Canizares finishing as he did: "It was obviously a little bit tough to see.

"You want to play well to get into the lead and I didn't play well, to be honest,” he added. "I hit a lot of bad iron shots, but I kept it together."

On the possibility of repeating his summer double last year, he added: "Next week is one of my favorite courses, so why not? This is one of the biggest tournaments we have on the European Tour. To win it once is a big once, but to win it twice would be awesome."

Webster and Canizares have something in addition to the title to fight for.

There is one British Open spot up for grabs. For Webster it would mean a return to St. Andrews, where he beat Tiger Woods to be leading amateur in 1995, and for Canizares it would be a first major -- after 10 failed attempts to qualify for the British Open and U.S. Open.

Six players are tied for fourth on seven under and right back in it thanks to Canizares falling back. They include Luke Donald, who has finished second, first and third in his last three starts on this side of the Atlantic.

"I do enjoy coming over, but it would be a pretty big upheaval to play more in Europe,” said Donald after a 67. "We have a baby, our home is in America and to spend more time here would be tough. I want to play against the best and most of the time the PGA Tour has stronger fields. I want to challenge myself as much as I can."

Donald out-scored playing partner Rory McIlroy by two and the 21-year-old Northern Irishman, now 5 under and tied for 12th, reckons he might need something like his closing 61 at Quail Hollow in May if he is to triumph again.

"I feel like I have a low one in my, but I'm struggling on the greens this week," he said.

He still fared better than Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, however. The two injury doubts before the start -- both with leg problems -- played together and had to settle for 71s that kept them at 3 under.