Matthew Fitzpatrick fuelled by Foster insight as he chases Laurie Canter in the Andalucia Masters

The Englishman is alone in second, but three shots adrift of his fellow countryman heading into the final round at Valderrama.

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The European Tour has been visiting Valderrama since 1988 and it has never been anything other than a brutal test.

In that first visit 13 of the 80-man field didn't break 80 in the first round and only two players would end the week in red numbers.

It's been a similar story down the years and while it is a little different this year - nine men are currently the right side of par - the leaders are under no illusions: the final round of this year's Andalucia Masters will be present another tough test.

Englishman Laurie Canter leads on 7-under 206, three shots clear of his fellow countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick, with America's David Lipsky alone in third a further stroke adrift.

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For Fitzpatrick, who is seeking a seventh European Tour title, the Sunday secret is to change nothing.

"Valderrama was a real test today," he said after posting a third round 1-under-par 70. "You had to be so patient. Early doors there wasn't much wind and a chance to make some birdies, but I didn't really do that.

"The wind picked up on the back nine and it was a case of sticking in there. I'm really pleased with the way I grinded it out and I'm happy with the one under.

"My caddie (Billy Foster) has been here so many times with so many different players. We said earlier in the week, the most important thing around here is patience.

"You can't chase anything. You can't just get driver out and try and be aggressive. You've got to be sensible and it's more important to not drop shots than it is to make birdies."

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The 27-year-old owns a startlingly good record with a third round lead. He's been in that situation eight times, has converted four wins, and never ended those weeks outside the top two - but as a close chaser he has been oddly less impressive.

He's been second another eight times and only at the 2016 DP World Tour Championship did he push on for the win and half the time he's gone backwards.

This is just his second visit to the famous course and he's already made a vast improvement on his missed cut in 2019.

Can he overhaul Canter in the final round? Let's take a closer look at the the leader, Lipsky and the trends.

Laurie Canter

Like Fitzpatrick, Canter is playing much better than he has done at Valderrama in the past. In fact, he'd posted two missed cuts and T42nd before this week.

He's led three events after 54 holes - all shared - and is yet to convert the win.

He does give the impression of becoming more familiar with the challenge, however. He was second going into the final round at Wentworth last month and carded a 67 to maintain that position.

He said: "The golf course doesn't give you loads. Although, as we all know, there's opportunities to drop shots here. I think what it means is I can go out tomorrow and play how I have these last couple of days.

"The score I end up on will be competitive, I think. That gives me a lot of confidence going in. Having said that, we know what the course is like. The last five or six holes the wind came up from nowhere and the finishing holes are really tough.

"It'll be interesting to see what happens with that tomorrow. There's a whole load of things that can change on the course.

"I don't know how you can go for some of the pins. The way my caddie and myself go about it, we're looking more at zones and channels on the greens. If you get a good number and the green is receptive you can have a bit of a dig.

"A lot of the time it's playing to zones 15 or 20 feet, a lot of the time that's a really good shot - giving yourself a chance with the putter. Then if you take advantage of the par fives they can potentially give you birdies."

David Lipsky

A two-time winner on the European Tour, he also claimed success on the Asian Tour in 2012 and the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020.

His two ET wins have come from second and one back at this stage, and then fourth and three back. Similar to this week, in other words. His course record reads: MC-T22nd-T52nd.

He said: "I've been hitting it pretty well all week, my putter was just really cold the first two days. I sent some videos to my putting coach last night, he gave me a few tips and I switched out my putter. I just needed to change something and apparently it worked.

"I've never done that before (changed equipment between rounds). I was terrible the last couple of days and I needed to do something. So I switched it up. I have a couple of putters I brought with me, I put the Scotty in play and today was great.

"I was fortunate. There wasn't too much wind on my front nine, I took advantage of that. It was picking up on the back - totally opposite wind direction which made things difficult. You have to think about it a bit more. It's still not as strong as it was on Thursday or Friday, so it was very playable."

Trends

The last 10 winners are Valderrama were tied second or better after 54 holes - and 15 of the last 18 champions there were in that position. Two were tied third, one tied fifth. The biggest number of shots made up in the final lap is four.

Great news for Canter and Fitzpatrick, with Lipsky holding a chance too.

Winners here excel in either hitting the greens or scrambling and that is being maintained this week.

Canter ranks first for GIR, 22nd for Scrambling; Fitzpatrick 28th and first; Lipsky second and 39th.

Canter is priced 5/4, Fitzpatrick 3/1 and Lipsky 11/1 with PlanetSportBet. The leader looks ripe for taking on and the American's hot putter might hold a bit of value, but Fitzpatrick at 3s is the bet.

READ MORE: Valde-drama: The greatest episodes in the history of this week's host of the Andalucia Masters

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