A closing birdie meant Chase Koepka remained the man to catch following the third round of the Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge, with the American taking a one-shot lead into the final day.
Scoring conditions favoured the early starters but Koepka, co-leading at the halfway point at Al Hamra GC and out last, kept grinding away to sign for a two under par round of 70 and reach 12 under par for the tournament, one ahead of Jens Dantorp and Christopher Mivis.
The Floridian has finished in the top five on five occasions already this season but, with European Tour status already assured for 2018, he has set his sights on signing off his Challenge Tour career with a maiden victory – and perhaps even the Road to Oman Rankings top spot.
“I really have no pressure on me,” said the 23 year old. “I don’t have to play for my card, like some guys might have to this week, but that still doesn’t mean that I’m going to lose my focus out there.
“I still want to win, I still want to be at the top of the Road to Oman at the end of the year and a ‘W’ would sure help me out on that.
“Today was a bit of a grind. I didn’t quite hit my long irons as well as I would have liked but at the end of the day, I’m still at the top of the leaderboard and shooting two under when not playing well gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.
“The greens were quite firm and it seemed like a lot of the pins were quite tight. You needed to drive it well in the fairways and then have good distance control to get the ball close.
“I felt like it was hard for me to get the ball close and, even when I hit some really good putts, they didn’t seem to go in. But I managed my way around and if this is going to be my bad day, I’ll take it.”
Moving Day can often be when a player pulls clear of the field but today saw the chasing pack tighten up, with 23 players all within five shots of Koepka’s lead.
His playing partner tomorrow will be Dantorp, whose outstanding round of 65 saw him climb 22 places – with only the top 45 in the Rankings contesting the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final next week, this would be a timely good result for the Swede, who is currently in 48th place, should he continue his form in the final round.
Mivis already knows that his breakthrough season on the Challenge Tour will end in Muscat but, three times a top five finisher this year, he starts his bid for a maiden title just one shot back.
Poland’s Adrian Meronk led for much of the day after reaching five under par for his round and 13 under par overall after 12 holes before late bogeys dropped him back into a share of fourth on ten under par.
Alongside him on that mark are Englishmen Max Orrin and Garrick Porteous, Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan and Adrien Saddier of France, but while Koepka remains in charge, it is perfectly set up for a dramatic conclusion in the UAE tomorrow.