Raphaël Jacquelin of France and Japan’s Nobuhito Sato lead the way going into the final round of the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club after a day in which the tightly bunched pack at the top thinned out only marginally, with only two strokes separating the leading ten players.
Jacquelin, a European Tour fixture for the past eight years, and Sato, who gained his card through the Qualifying School Finals last November, are locked on 205, 11 under par, after rounds of 65 and 67 respectively. England’s Jonathan Lomas lies third on 206 after playing his last 36 holes in 14 under par courtesy or rounds of 64 and 66.
A total of 83 players set out in the third round separated by only five strokes – the cut falling on 143 and the lead held by five players on 138 – and it was not really surprising that several players from the cut line made a dramatic forward move.
In fact, Germany’s Marcel Siem, in the third group on the course, fired a superb eight under par 64 and was on nine under par after holing out at the 18th while the final group stood on the first tee awaiting the nod from the Starter to get under way.
It was Siem who deprived Jacquelin of his maiden title just two months ago when the pair were involved in a play-off with another of this week’s contenders, Gregory Havret of France, for the dunhill championship in Johannesburg. Siem prevailed at the second extra hole, leaving Jacquelin to rue another missed opportunity.
However, after a round containing seven birdies and no bogeys, the 29 year old from Lyon, insisted that although disappointed to miss that oppoprtunity, he is not trying to force things.
“I’m not impatient to win” he stressed. “I think the way to win is to make sure you are not impatient. Let it happen. I think it will happen and when it does I won’t be surprised. Yes, I am going for that win and I had a good chance in the dunhill championship, but I will stick to my same routine and do what I normally do. I won’t change anything.”
Sato, 34 on Friday, joined Jacquelin on 11 under par with three birdies and a glorious eagle at the tenth, where he ripped a five wood to 15 feet for one of only four eagles at the hole during the day.
Winner of nine titles on the Japan Tour, including the Japanese TPC Championship, Sato has reached the lofty position alongside Jacquelin with just one bogey on his card. He admitted: “I am very excited but I will also be pretty nervous. I was quite nervous this morning and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s only golf and not a life or death situation. I will try to enjoy it.”
Golf, indeed, was put entirely in perspective during the third round. At 1.45pm precisely, the klaxons sounded all over the Doha course, signalling the start of one minute’s silence out of respect for the tragic victims of the Madrid bombings a few days earlier. The silence was observed impeccably before play continued.
Five different nationalities occupy the top ten places on the leaderboard, with England supplying third place Lomas on 206 and three others in Roger Chapman, Brian Davis David Howell, all on 207, nine under par. Siem, Joakim Haeggman of Sweden and Denmark’s Anders Hansen are also in that group of seven players sharing fourth place.
Lomas, in outright third, opened with a 76 and conceded he was planning an early flight to Singapore for next week’s tournament. However a 64 followed by a 66 have forced him into the reckoning for his first title in eight years.
“I came out early on Friday morning and just picked my shot and hit it he explained. “I was hearing too much in my head – too much clutter – and was probably getting bogged down with those thoughts. I am going to do exactly the same thing tomorrow, whether I finished 20th or 30th.”
Chapman, who took 472 starts on The European Tour to finally win a title, will be 45 in May and admits he is trying to stay competitive for Seniors golf. After a third round 66 he said: “My aim is to stay competitive until I am 50, have five years on the Seniors Tour then it’s ‘sayanara’ and ‘gone fishing!’”