Adam Scott started the day three shots ahead in the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club and ended it in the same position, leaving the 21 year old Australian only 18 holes away from his second victory on The European Tour International Schedule.
A third round 69 gave Scott a 14 under par total of 202 and maintained his position at the head of affairs, the only change coming with a shuffling of the chasing pack.
At the start of the day, Scott’s nearest challengers were Sweden’s Klas Eriksson, Denmark’s Anders Hansen and José Manuel Lara of Spain but as they fell back, the mantle was taken up by Jean-Francois Remesy of France who carded a 68 for an 11 under par total of 205.
One shot behind the Frenchmen were four players, Nick Dougherty, Stephen Gallacher, Miguel Angel Martin and Colin Montgomerie but, just as in the second round, they were bit players to the star performance.
Ironically the Australian, winner of the Alfred Dunhill Championship in 2001, could have extended his lead even further but saw his four foot effort for birdie at the last, jump from a spike mark and shoot right of the hole. But Scott remained philisophical about events.
“It would have been nice to make that one at the last but overall it is a good result because it was a tough day out there with the wind blowing a lot. I had the chance to run away with it because I played beautifully on the front nine but, as I said, it was tough and I hung in there well on the back nine.”
Indeed Scott was five clear of the field at one stage but he dropped his only shot of the day at the 12th, where his eight iron approach flew through the back of the green and he failed to get up and down, an error which gave his pursuers hope.
Aside from winning in South Africa last year, Scott was also in contention on a couple of occasions on the final day of tournaments but failed to convert any other chances. But he admitted he felt more equipped to handle the challenge now.
“I think last year it was all pretty new. When I was ahead I tried to force it a little bit too much, didn’t play within myself and my rhythm was out,” he said. “I was walking too fast, doing everything too fast.
“But I think I am a stronger player than I was then with a year’s more experience under my belt. Tomorrow I will go out and try to be comfortable straight away, get a putt going in or something like that to get relaxed and get into a good rhythm. That will be the key. It’s nothing you can force, you’ve just got to let it happen and I think my time has come.”
Second placed Remesy, like Scott, has tasted victory once on The European Tour – in the Estoril Open of 1999 – but granted himself his start-of-season wish to be more in contention at the business end of tournaments.
The 37 year old Frenchman carded six birdies in total to more than make up for his two dropped shots before admitting he was relieved to be playing at all, after having mysteriously injured his back on the final hole of his second round on Friday morning.
“I don’t really know what happened but I was playing my sand wedge approach to the 18th when I felt something go in my back as I was swinging,” he said. “I didn’t practice in the afternoon yesterday and took some anti-inflammatory tablets this morning and tried to loosen up as much as I could.
“I still had to take some precautions with my swing and not hit quite as hard through the ball as normal and I also had to be careful when I was bending down to mark my ball or pick it out of the hole. But fortunately, it didn’t go against me, so we will see what happens tomorrow.”
Another player suffering a back complaint was Nick Dougherty who sought treatment from The European Tour’s physio department before carding a 68 for a share of third place on ten under par 206.
A 78 looked more on the cards for the 19 year old Englishman when he dropped shots at his opening two holes and indeed found his first par figure of the day at the seventh. But Dougherty steadied the ship on the inward half and four birdies gave him a realistic chance of his first European Tour title.
Finishing alongside Dougherty was his playing partner for the day, Miguel Angel Martin, who birdied the last three holes for his 68 while Stephen Gallacher also finished with a flourish, birdieing the 16th for a 69 to book his place in the group on ten under.
The only member of the third placed quartet unhappy with the ending to his round was seven time Volvo Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie. For a long spell the 38 year old Scot looked like he would be the closest challenger to Scott come the end of the day but he three putted both the 15th and 18th for a 69 to drop back.