On a day when only six players broke 70 – with five of those signing for 69s – Sweden’s Henrik Stenson played the role of maverick by firing a majestic 66 to take a two stroke lead into the final round of the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club.
In furnace-like conditions, Stenson showed what was possible with a wonderful back nine of 31 to add to his outwards 35 for his six under par score, equalling the best of the week.
His ten under par total of 206 was enough for a two stroke cushion over fellow Swede Niclas Fasth and halfway leader, Richard Green of Australia.
“Stenson, with two European Tour victories under his belt, knows he is in a strong position to collect a third title, but the combination of an expected stiff wind on the last day, some in-form challengers and the menacing presence of Ernie Els prompted him to be cautious.
"It’s still a very open tournament and I think it’s going to be a tight race with Niclas and Richard right up there. Ernie’s still there as well and he might give it a shot tomorrow. He’s always dangerous when he gets going.”
While Stenson was bagging birdie after birdie on the inward nine, Green and first round leader, Pierre Fulke, were unable to find their magic touch.
Both carded a one over par 73 for 208 and 209 respectively. Indeed, it was another Swede, Fasth, who came nearest to closing the gap on Stenson with four birdies on the final seven holes as he went round in 69.
Green had looked in total command of his game the previous day, but it was a different story 24 hours later. He said: “Nothing much was going on for either Pierre or myself out there. I used up a lot of mental energy trying to save par and had nothing in the tank at the end.
“I am going to stock up on energy goods tonight – loads of pasta – and go out there and try to get on a roll tomorrow. I lacked momentum today and clearly Henrik had that going for him.”
Fasth, recent winner of the Holden New Zealand Open, certainly appeared to have maintained his own momentum after that victory and he commented: “I’m just pleased to be a couple back. No-one has really taken charge except for Henrik so although I didn’t get a low scoring round, I’m still in there.”
Els was one of the quintet who scored 69, but at five under par he is still five behind Stenson. Clearly annoyed not to be a shot or two closer to the lead, the World Number Three said: “That’s the best I’ve played all week and felt I could have shot better.
"I have an outside chance and we’ll see what happens if there is a bit more breeze to make it difficult. I burned a lot of edges today but I kept my hope alive.”