Ernie Els doesn’t always make the same mistake twice, but the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic proved to be the exception to the rule as he took a bogey six at the last for the second day running to go into the final day tied for the lead with Alastair Forsyth of Scotland and England’s David Lynn.
Els, Forsyth and Lynn all shot three under par 69s for a 54 hole total of 203, 13 under par, to set up another thrilling finale to the Desert Classic. Just two strokes off the pace are an international trio of players in Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, Korean teenager Kevin Na and Welshman Ian Woosnam.
Els made a slow start to his third round as his playing partner Forsyth caught fire immediately, making a 40 feet eagle putt at the third after hitting a five iron second onto the green, then birdieing the seventh and eighth – the later after a superb drawing shot around the trees to a matter of three feet.
Both players had bogeyed the fourth and it looked as if, for once, Els was a little out of sorts. Forsyth, three ahead of the field at the turn, missed an outstanding opportunity to draw four strokes clear of the South African at the tenth, as his five foot birdie attempt slid past the hole.
However Els is noted for his immense patience as well as his inordinately long hitting and eventually pulled all aspects of his game together, birdieing the 15th and 16th before launching one of his enormous drives onto the green at the 359 yard 17th to set up a two putt birdie.
At the last, Forsyth was unable to convert a five foot birdie putt while Els, for the second day in a row, dropped a shot. On Friday his four iron second dropped into the water guarding the green. This time his six iron cleared the ‘wet stuff’ but came to rest on the brick wall in front of the putting surface.
Els elected to take a sand wedge from just inside the hazard line but played an untidy chip over the green and failed to get up and down from there and had to be content with a second successive bogey.
“The greens were firm and it was tough getting to the flags, so I had to be patient” said Els. “Although I made some mistakes I played well coming home until the 18th. Yesterday I hit a bad four iron and deserved what I got. Today I took a six iron from 195 yards and it came up a yard short.
“It felt with my yardage I could get it up quite close and maybe putt for eagle but I still messed it up! I don’t think I’ve ever had to play a shot like that from the rocks but I just hit it a little too hard and my fourth shot was very, very tough.”
It was a deeply impressive effort by Forsyth, who managed to disregard the status of his playing partner. However he acknowledged: “Obviously Ernie is there, so he’s probably the man to beat. But today he showed he is human and does make mistakes. I think it will be pretty close tomorrow.
Lynn, now on his seventh season on The European Tour, started the day in a four way tie for the lead and, like Els, came alive on the back nine, three birdies carrying him home in 34 and round in 69.
The 29 year old admitted: “It took me eight holes to get going but over the back nine I had different thoughts and started to putt well towards the end. I just managed to keep more height through my swing at impact.”
Looking ahead to the final day, Lynn added: “This is a good position to be in. All eyes will be on Ernie behind me so I will just go out and see what I can do.”