English duo share Spanish lead

The English pair and home favourite Sergio Garcia were the only three players to break 70 in the third round, and just 15 of the field are under par for the tournament after 54 holes.

Garcia made light of the blustery conditions and the hard and fast layout as he soared 46 places up the leaderboard with an outstanding five-under 67 that got him to two under par – five behind the leaders.

Last week’s joint runner-up at TPC Sawgrass scraped into the weekend with two late birdies on Friday, and he took full advantage as he carded seven birdies – including three over the last five holes following bogeys at 12 and 13.

“I obviously needed a great round today, and it would have been if I hadn’t??made those two bogeys on 12 and 13,” said the world No 10. “But to be able to birdie 14 and 15 with two??very nice shots and good putts got me back on track.

“I didn’t play much different than the first two days. I managed to make a couple of nice putts early on, and a couple of things went my way. I missed my drive on 18 and managed to get away with it and make birdie. That made the difference between today and the first two rounds.

“The course is playing similar. The wind is not as strong but it’s still??gusty. If you play well you can post a decent score, but if you’re a little bit??off, you can struggle on this course.

“If the leaders don’t go much lower than what they are, with another great??round tomorrow I have a chance. If it doesn’t rain the course is not going to??play any easier. We’ll see what happens today and then I’ll try to play great??tomorrow.”

Morrison rallies

Garcia held the clubhouse lead until Morrison returned a sparkling 68 that looked well out of reach when he made a mess of the second hole and ran up a double-bogey seven.

But he staged a remarkable recovery with birdies at four of the next five holes, and he picked up further shots at the 12th and the 15th before offsetting a bogey at 17 with his seventh birdie of the day at the last.

The in-form Howell got off to a flying start and reached eight under with his fourth birdie at the seventh, but his momentum stalled when a wayward tee shot to the short eighth led to a double-bogey five.

He got back on track with birdies at 11 and 12 before giving both shots back at the 13th and 17th, but a sublime pitch to three feet at the last set up his seventh birdie and hauled him back into a share of the lead with Morrison.

Francesco Molinari, who won the title in Seville in 2012, appeared on course for the outright lead when he nailed his fourth birdie of the day at the 10th to reach seven under, but the Italian was one of a number of players to come to grief at the daunting 17th and a double-bogey dropped him back into third place.

Emiliano Grillo (72) and Darren Fichardt (73) are a further shot adrift, while overnight leader Edouard Espana failed to match the heights of his opening sub-70 rounds as he made only one birdie in a torrid 76 and slipped to three under.

Garcia heads a group of six players at two under, and defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez birdied the final hole to salvage a 72 and get back within six strokes of Howell and Morrison alongside Englishmen Matt Ford and John Parry.