Manassero's Masters hopes still alive in Morocco, where McGrane leads

Matteo Manassero
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Matteo Manassero had seven birdies, including three straight from the 10th hole, on Saturday to move to 11 under through 16 holes on the Golf du Palais Royal course.
PA Sport and Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2012 | 6:14 p.m.

Italian teenager Matteo Manassero stayed in the running for the Masters on Saturday by moving to within a stroke of the leader before darkness halted play in the third round of the Hassan II Trophy on the European Tour.

Damien McGrane of Ireland remained atop the leaderboard at 12 under after 10 holes. The 18-year-old Manassero must win to boost his ranking into the top 50 to play at Augusta National.

Manassero had seven birdies, including three straight from the 10th hole, to move to 11 under through 16 holes on the Golf du Palais Royal course.

Jose Manuel Lara of Spain is also a stroke back through 10 holes.

Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland was the clubhouse leader after a 65 that included an eagle and eight birdies to finish on 10 under. The three-time European Tour winner had a bogey on the last hole.

Strong win delayed play for almost six hours on Friday, and the second round was finished on Saturday. Only 29 players completed the third round.

McGrane, the 40-year-old Irishman whose only European Tour title came by nine shots in China four years ago, started the day three behind clubhouse leader Phillip Price but with 13 holes of his second round remaining. He birdied the seventh, ninth and 10th to pull level with former Ryder Cup hero Price before two-putting the long 15th for birdie to take the outright lead.

He holed an important six-footer at the last to confirm his halfway advantage, then mixed four birdies with three bogeys over the first 10 holes of his third round to reach 12 under par.

"It was a nice way to finish the day with a birdie, but I have to be honest and say that it was a bit of a mixed bag out there today," McGrane said. "Plenty of birdies and bogeys so not quite as good as the first two rounds. I have actually missed a few fairways out there in the third round and that is probably the easiest thing to do on this course.

"But I can't complain too much -- I am in the position you want to be going into the final day and hopefully I can get the job done," he added. "We'll come back tomorrow and we will have a winner so hopefully that can be me."

Manassero carded three consecutive birdies after the turn.

"It was a very good round for me," said the Maybank Malaysian Open champion. "I have to say that the extra prize of the Masters really helps me as well. It gives me extra motivation and I seem to play better in that kind of situation.

"I had a few months recently where I couldn't get into contention but after last week and now this week it feels great to be playing well and having chances to win."

The 34-year-old Lara had carded a 65 on Friday and mixed three birdies with a single bogey over the first 10 holes of his third round.

"It was a difficult day and it was tough conditions for the first few holes today but all in all I am still in a great position," said the two-time European Tour winner. "I am playing well so I am trying to do the same things as I have been all week and hoping that it will be good enough tomorrow. Thankfully one thing is certain tomorrow -- we won't finish in the dark!"