sport

Canizares stays out in front

Alejandro Canizares was closing in on a first European Tour title since 2006 in the Hassan Trophy on Saturday as his nearest challengers faded.

A third round of 69 at Golf du Palais Royal was enough for Canizares to extend his overnight lead from one shot to six over England's Seve Benson, with Holland's Robert-Jan Derksen another stroke back after his 67 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 Canizares, whose previous Tour victory came in the Russian Open in 2006.

"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.

"My idea was to get to 20 under, that was my focus. I was trying to look forward all the time not behind me. It was a pity I started missing some shots right at the end and I could not take advantage of the par fives on the back nine."

Asked if he felt the tournament was now his to lose, Canizares added on Sky Sports: "Hopefully I will keep calm and keep my rhythm and focus on every shot tomorrow.

"In this game anything can happen. Everybody saw that you can go low on this golf course, I have to keep going forward and do the best I can on every shot."

A bogey on the fourth and birdie on the fifth took Canizares to the turn in 36 and two ahead of Benson, who had bogeyed the first and then recorded eight straight pars.

Canizares then two-putted from just off the green on the par-five 10th to record his second birdie of the day, while Benson ran up a bogey six after his approach plugged in some mud on the bank of a water hazard to the right of the green.

Benson hit back straight away with a birdie on the 11th, but then took an even more costly six on the par-three 12th after finding a greenside bunker off the tee.

The 27-year-old from Guildford overhit his recovery shot and watched as it trickled agonisingly into the water on the other side of the green, and after taking a penalty drop in the sand needed three more to get down.

Canizares birdied the 13th and 14th to move seven clear of Jan-Derksen and eight ahead of Benson, who responded superbly with a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th, only to bogey the last after coming up short of the green with his approach.

Benson, who has won three times on the Challenge Tour but is still chasing his first European Tour title, said: "I struggled really today just to get the ball pin-high.

"The pins were a little silly in places which made it tough, 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 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."