Friday, 19 March 2010

Denmark's Anders Hansen had waited a decade for the chance to play alongside Tiger Woods - but now he has an opportunity for a repeat performance in the company of the World Number One after the pair drew a shot clear of the field after the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Hansen, winner of the PGA Championship in 2002, is joined in the final group for the second successive day by World Number Three, Retief Goosen, who seemed destined to lead going into the final day but for an uncharacteristic sloppy finish to his round.

Hansen (69) and Woods (67) lead on 200, 16 under par, with Goosen one behind after a 70,  but the chasing pack contains a few gunslingers prepared to take a pot-shot at the title. Defending champion and three-time winner, Ernie Els, moved up to 14 under par with a 68 and he was joined on that mark by 1997 winner, Richard Green and last year's runner-up, Miguel Angel Jiménez.

In fact, no fewer than 13 players are within six shots of the lead going into what promises to be an enthralling final 18 holes over a course which was once a green oasis in the desert but is now dwarfed by dozens of towering skyscrapers nearby.

Hansen, though did not feel overshadowed by his debut appearance in the illustrious company. He admitted: It's been a great experience. I enjoyed it. It's what I hoped for and I couldn't have asked for more. He's got his own gallery out there and people are shouting him on but you've just got to deal with that. It's definitely a different experience.

"All of that is none of my concern. I have to play my own game and I'm proud of the way I held myself together because it's a tough situation. I had played with 'Goose' before but not Tiger and I kept things together and shot three under.

"I can't do anything about what he is going to do tomorrow. I can't play Tiger's game or Retief's game - although my bank manager would be happy if that was the case! Tiger is just class. He's probably going to come in for his interview now and say that he didn't have his A game!"

Woods, who birdied three of the last six holes to slip past Goosen and into a share of the lead, said: "Overall it was a day when you had to be patient. The wind was blowing, the greens were getting really quick and I was just trying to put the ball in position to be aggressive with the putts.

"I didn't think I was going to be in this position with a few holes to play but there are a bunch of guys in there. Hopefully tomorrow I can put together a good round."

Goosen was two strokes ahead early in the back nine after birdies at the 13th and 14th, but he failed to get up and down from the fringe of the 15th and 16th greens to allow his partners to overtake him.

He said: "I got off to a good start but went a bit 'dead' until the 11th. It was an up and down day, especially on the back nine with three birdies and three bogeys. They were stupid bogeys, to be honest as I thought the chips were makeable. I feel disappointed right now but I have another chance tomorrow."
Jiménez fired the lowest score of the chasing pack with a 66 while pushed him into contention for the second successive year along with the man who pipped him in 2005 - Els's eagle putt denying the Spaniard and Welshman Stephen Dodd 11 months ago.

Els, who closed with a pair of birdies, confided: "It was good to get a low round in there. I feel like I'm playing well and I love this course. The greens are getting firm and fast and if I can put it all together tomorrow with the same rhythm I can shoot 65, which is what I am going to need."

Green, the champion nine years ago, held up the 'horses fof courses' theory with a 69 to finish on 14 under and he commented: "I think it's going to require a really good score tomorrow - like I did on Thursday when I shot 64. I think I've got it in me."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1WOODS, TigerUSA18-19
T1ELS, ErnieRSA18-19
3GREEN, RichardAUS18-18
T4HANSEN, AndersDEN18-17
T4JIMÉNEZ, Miguel AngelESP18-17
6GOOSEN, RetiefRSA18-16
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