x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Leaderboard logjam after day 3 at Dubai Desert Classic

Garcia surges, Woods remains steady in the third round as Rory McIlroy reclaims the lead along with Anders Hansen and Thomas Aiken.

Sergio Garcia looks disappointed after a mistake at the 17th hole.
Sergio Garcia looks disappointed after a mistake at the 17th hole.
DUBAI // A gripping conclusion to the 22nd Omega Dubai Desert Classic is in prospect after the relatively benign conditions of the first two days turned nasty and caused a logjam on the leaderboard.
If there are as many twists and turns this afternoon as there were yesterday, the finale to the four-week Middle East swing is going to be a classic in every respect.
The leading 10 players go into the final 18 holes covered by a single shot and another 10 are within three shots of the lead, believing that they can capture the distinctive Coffee Pot Trophy which comes with winning the European Tour event.
Remarkably, Rory McIlroy remains at the head of the field after starting his third round with three bogeys and rattling up 38 shots to reach the turn, at which point he trailed Sergio Garcia by three.
Garcia then suffered the same fate as most of his rivals by travelling in a reverse direction, his decline accelerated by a double-bogey at the 17th hole.
Suddenly, McIlroy was in a three-way tie for first with his playing partner Thomas Aiken and Anders Hansen, who performed nobly in the daunting company of Tiger Woods.
All three stand at eight under for 54 holes, with Woods and Garcia figuring most prominently in a seven-man chase group just one shot behind. McIlroy, Aiken and Hansen will play in the final group in what could turn into a last-day shoot-out.
Most dangerous of the second tightly-bunched group at five under par or better is Lee Westwood, the world No 1, who is now guaranteed to stay there after his main rankings rival Martin Kaymer shot an uncharacteristic 76 to drop down to 47th place.
Nobody suffered greater embarrassment, though, than Garcia's playing partner Steve Webster. The Englishman started the day in fourth place, one stroke behind Garcia, but ended it even further back than Kaymer after the trauma of an 81, the worst score of the day.
Webster's high-profile torture would have been even more extreme but for a brave eagle at the long 10th - his only other successes having come at two of the other par fives, the third and the 18th.
For the second day running McIlroy showed outstanding character to rally from losing the lead to regain it and his refusal to be blown off course suggests he will take some stopping in his quest to repeat his 2009 triumph here.
"I steadied the ship really well today," he said. "After being four over through seven, to play the next 11 holes in one under was a pretty good effort."
McIlroy, 21, adopted a damage-limitation approach during his hour of crisis. "I thought it was best not to try to force things," he said. "I just needed to play smart and try not to make any more bogeys.
"There have been a few rounds that I've let get away from me - the second round at the [British] Open last year being a prime example. But I didn't let that happen here which is a positive sign.
"I wish I could have started better and gained a bit of an advantage going into tomorrow but I still have a great chance to win. It's just that a lot of other guys have a chance to win as well."
Aiken, one of several players who overtook McIlroy on a busy day for the scoreboard operators, was happy to settle for a share of the lead as he seeks a first European Tour title. "It wasn't the fantastic score that I really wanted, but the position that I'm in at the moment is exactly what I want going into tomorrow," said the South African. "In those conditions to make only three bogeys is not too bad.
"Mentally, it was very draining because you had to take a lot of time over your shots with the wind changing direction all the time.
"It's now going to be very exciting from a spectator's point of view; from a golfer's point of view, it's not really what you want but you've got to take what you can get."
Hansen goes into the final day boosted by the fact that he comfortably outplayed his co-leaders by posting a respectable 71 to Aiken's 74 and McIlroy's 75.
Hansen is bidding to become the second Danish winner here after Thomas Bjorn in 2001. Bjorn had the better of a personal duel with Woods on that occasion and Hansen did yesterday.

wjohnson@thenational.ae
LEADERBOARD (third round):
Anders Hansen, Denmark 69-68-71 - 208
Thomas Aiken, South Africa 67-67-74 - 208
Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland 65-68-75 - 208
Alvaro Velasco, Spain 74-70-65 - 209
Alvaro Quiros, Spain 73-68-68 - 209
Frederik Andersson Hed, Sweden 69-71-69 - 209
Brett Rumford, Australia 69-68-72 - 209
Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, France 68-69-72 - 209
Tiger Woods, United States 71-66-72 - 209
Sergio Garcia, Spain 67-67-75 - 209
Stephen Gallacher, Scotland 70-69-71 - 210
Michael Hoey, Northern Ireland 70-67-73 - 210
James Kingston, South Africa 72-72-67 - 211
Scott Strange, Australia 72-72-67 - 211
Maarten Lafeber, Netherlands 71-72-68 - 211
Hennie Otto, South Africa 72-70-69 - 211
Raphael Jacquelin, France 72-70-69 - 211
Pablo Martin, Spain 68-72-71 - 211
Lee Westwood, England 69-70-72 - 211
Peter Hanson, Sweden 69-69-73 - 211
Also
Ross Fisher, England 73-69-79 - 212
Martin Kaymer, Germany 69-71-76 - 216
Miguel Angel Jimenez, Spain 72-70-74 - 216
UPDATES OF THE DAY'S ACTION AS IT HAPPENED:

McIlroy back in the lead
Sergio Garcia's harrowing experience on the 17th has forced him off the top, and Rory McIlroy is back in the lead, sharing it with Anders Hansen and Thomas Aiken at eight-under.

Garcia was top of the field on a nine-under when his tee-shot on the par-four, 359-yard 17th landed in the bushes. The misfortune cost him two shots and he finished the day with a 75 for an aggregate of seven-under 209, the same as Tiger Woods, Alvaro Velasco, Alvaro Quiros, Fredrik Andersson Hed, Brett Rumford and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet.
Garcia on top
The young Northern Irishman bogeyed his three opening holes, including the fairly straightforward par five third, to fall out of the lead and into the chasing pack.
As in his second round he showed great character to arrest his slide and stay in touch with the leader Sergio Garcia, who had opened a three-shot gap at the turn before bogeying three of his next five holes.
Many players went backwards on a blustery third day, most noticeably Martin Kaymer who posted an embarrassing 76 to subside to level par for the tournament.
Rory McIlroy had a nightmare start to what he was hoping would be another successful day at the Desert Classic.
The young Northern Irishman bogeyed his three opening holes, including the fairly straightforward par five third, to fall out of the lead and into the chasing pack.
As in his second round he showed great character to arrest his slide and stay in touch with the leader Sergio Garcia, who had opened a three-shot gap at the turn before bogeying three of his next five holes.
Many players went backwards on a blustery third day, most noticeably Martin Kaymer who posted an embarrassing 76 to subside to level par for the tournament.