VILAMOURA, Portugal, Oct 21 (Reuters) South African Charl Schwartzel almost pulled out of the Portugal Masters third round through injury before timely treatment allowed him to play on to go joint second behind Argentina's Daniel Vancsik.
Schwartzel, 23, holed out from 114 yards for an eagle on the long 17th as he carded a six-under 66 to join Briton Steve Webster (67) on 17-under 199 yesterday, one stroke behind overnight leader Vancsik (68).
Swede Robert Karlsson was tied for fourth place on 200 with Briton Ross Fisher. A further stroke adrift were British pair Lee Westwood and Sam Walker plus Swede Peter Hanson.
It was a dramatic reversal of fortune for Schwartzel, who is looking for his third European Tour title.
''I must have slept awkwardly and this morning my neck had stiffened up so badly I could hardly move,'' Schwartzel told Reuters.
''With only 15 minutes to my tee-time I ran to the tour's physio bus for a second time and told them if they couldn't help me I was pulling out.
''One of the physios, Rob (Hillman), said there was nothing for it but to put extra pressure on my neck, he did so and something clicked. I was then able to swing freely thank goodness.'' SPANISH WIN While Schwartzel intends to use the confidence he gained from winning the Spanish Open this year, leader Vancsik is determined to put last week's anguish behind him.
The 30-year-old Argentine led the Madrid Open for three rounds but threw away his title chance on the last day with a nine at the par-four fifth.
''Winning this week is the perfect way to get over my disappointment,'' said Vancsik. ''There is a much, much bigger first prize.'' Vancsik allowed several birdie chances to go begging, including a missed eight-footer on the last.
''I'm aware of some class players like Westwood and Karlsson behind me so I can't just sit back,'' he said.
''I have to stay aggressive with my driving but I also intend to stay patient with my putter.'' REUTERS BJR PM1350