Manassero's Masters hopes still alive in Morocco
By BERNIE MCGUIRE
AGADIR, Morocco (AP) Italy teen Matteo Manassero kept alive hopes of making the Masters by moving to within a stroke of the lead before poor light halted play in the third round of the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco on Saturday.
Manassero picked up seven birdies, including three in succession from the 10th hole, to move into a share of second place at 11-under par through 16 holes on the Golf du Palais Royal course.
He must win to boost his ranking into the top 50 to play at Augusta National.
"The dream is still alive and I have to try my best to make it happen," Manassero said.
"I am certainly going to try and win the event first and foremost, and then if the Masters happens it would be amazing. 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." Damien McGrane of Ireland remained atop the leaderboard at 12 under after 10 holes.
Sharing second with the 18-year-old Manassero was Jose Manuel Lara of Spain, who had completed 10 holes.
Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland was the clubhouse leader in carding a 65 that included an eagle and eight birdies to finish on 10-under.
However, the three-time European Tour winner let slip the chance to finish better when he bogeyed the last.
A long delay on Friday caused by strong winds meant the second round did not finish until lunchtime on Saturday with 75 players making the cut. But when the third round commenced at 2 p.m. local time, only 29 completed play.
Play will resume early Sunday, with players going off from the first and 10th tees.
McGrane remained unchallenged until the seventh hole when he dropped his second shot in the space of three holes.
Moments earlier, the 40-year-old Irishman moved three clear of the field with successive birdies at the third and fourth holes.
He was fortunate at the par-four fourth when he missed the fairway right and his ball came to rest just off the spectator walkway in ice plants. A spectator then inadvertently stepped on his ball and McGrane was allowed a free drop. He put his second to about 20 feet from the flag and holed the birdie putt.
McGrane bogeyed the fifth and seventh holes but regrouped with a birdie at eight before dropping a shot at nine and moving back to 12-under with a birdie at the 10th.
"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.
"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. We'll have a winner so hopefully that can be me."
McGrane broke through to claim his only European Tour success in the 2008 China Open in wet and windy conditions by nine strokes in Beijing.
He emerged on the tour after being the assistant professional at Headfort Golf Club in Kells then the head pro at the renowned Waterville Club.
McGrane joined the tour full-time in 2003 and aside from his success in China he has enjoyed two seconds, three thirds and 21 other top-10s to earn in excess of 4 million ($5.3 million) in prize money.
Victory for McGrane would also make amends for the scare in the penultimate tour event last season when he missed the cut in the Hong Kong Open and feared he may have slipped outside the leading 118 qualifiers to retain full 2012 tour membership.
Updated March 24, 2012