Wayne Riley and David Howell, partners in the Open Novotel Perrier pairs tournament in Bordeaux last year, will be rivals in the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
Australian Riley and Englishman Howell, who won the Australian PGA title at the end of last season, tied for the lead on 208, eight under par, after three rounds. Riley shot a two under par 70 and Howell a 71 on a tough scoring day.
They lead by two strokes from last year’s Challenge Tour champion, Warren Bennett from Watford, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and English-born Ed Fryatt, who plies his trade on the Asian PGA Tour.
Riley, 36, admitted that losing his card last year was the equivalent of a substantial kick in the pants and shook him into re-appraising his work ethic.
He said: "Last year was one of these things I don’t want to talk too much about. This is a new year. I was basically in the doldrums for six months but I’m coming back to form."
Howell, the halfway leader, slipped back with a double bogey at the fourth, but held his game together and played the back nine in two under par to share the lead with his Bordeaux partner.
"I only decided to enter at the last minute and Wayne didn’t have a partner" he explained. "We had good fun and tied for 24th. England lost the cricket to Australia so I’ll try to get one back over them on the golf course!"
Bennett, a five-time winner on the Challenge Tour in 1998, played with Masters and Open champion Mark O’Meara - and out-scored the American by six shots, 71 to 77. It was an impressive effort by Bennett, who admitted: "It was the first time I’d met Mark. Everything was shaking on the first tee except the ball."
Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Mark James, shot a second successive 69 to prove he can play as well as captain. James lies handily placed on 211, just three off the pace.
Still dangerous and lurking on 212 are Colin Montgomerie, after a level par 72, and Lee Westwood, who shot his lowest round of 1999, a three under par 69.