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Gonzalez remains on course

Gonzalez is two strokes ahead going into Sunday's final day

(Keystone)

Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez remains the man to beat at the prestigious European Masters golf tournament in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana. Having been in front since day one, Gonzalez on Saturday extended his lead to two strokes.

After being pegged back by the chasing pack in the day's early action, the Argentinian underdog fought back with a magnificent eagle at the 15th hole, taking his overall score to 13 under par.

"The 15th can be a difficult hole," Gonzalez said afterwards, "because you've got to hit a really good drive. If you can do that, like I managed today, it makes the hole a lot easier."

Gonzalez is looking to repeat the achievement of his compatriot Eduardo Romero who won the Crans-Montana tournament. However Gonzalez is unlikely to match Romero's winning margin of ten strokes, with Sunday's final day promising a much closer contest than last year.

The three men who preceded Gonzalez around the course on Saturday look set to be his nearest rivals on Sunday. New Zealand's Stephen Scahill finished the day on 11 under par while England's Greg Owen and Denmark's Soren Hansen are both just one stroke further back.

There was bad news for another Dane, and possibly for Europe's Ryder Cup team, on Friday with Thomas Bjorn having to pull out of the tournament with a possible dislocated shoulder.

Bjorn, who was five under par before his forced withdrawal, said he planned to head straight to London for a scan. He added that he would also be skipping next week's American Express world championship and the Lancome Trophy in a bid to make the Ryder Cup.

Of the big names competing in Switzerland this week, veteran former US Masters champion Craig Stadler continued to impress. The popular American, who only decided to come to Crans-Montana as part of a European vacation, had moved from four under to eight under by the end of his third round.

South African world number four Ernie Els improved on his disappointing start to the tournament, lifting himself from one over to two under par on Saturday, but the turnaround appears to have come too late to threaten those at the top of the leaderboard.

Reigning European number one Lee Westwood also has a lot of work to do after finishing the day at five under par. Triple Crans-Montana champion Seve Ballesteros is well out of contention at six over.

By Mark Ledsom, Crans-Montana

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