Saturday is traditionally referred to as ‘Moving Day’ at golf tournaments but nothing could have been further from the truth in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship as Martin Kaymer maintained his stranglehold on the event.
The 23 year old German – winner of The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award in 2007 – started the day six shots clear of the field and ended the day in exactly the same position after a flawless third round 68 gave him a 17 under par total of 199.
The only difference for Kaymer is the player who now occupies second place behind him. At the start of the day it was Henrik Stenson but the Swede dropped back to third on ten under par 206 after his third round 69; the man now in second place being England’s Anthony Wall who moved up from a share of ninth place at the start of the day after an excellent 65 for an 11 under par total of 205.
Kaymer has threatened a breakthrough win for a number of months now and indeed was in a good position in last season’s Celtic Manor Wales Open and Scandinavian Masters tournaments before nerves got the better of him to let Richard Sterne and Mikko Ilonen respectively in to triumph.
Although he admitted to a touch of the jitters before he started the third round, there was little evidence of it once the first ball had been struck. He birdied the first two holes, and he also added further birdies at the 11th and 18th, thrilling the galleries around the home green with a superb bunker shot to one foot to finish off.
“I am really pleased with how today went,” he said. “Not a single bogey out there which was good and in fact I think I have only made two bogeys all week which is great here. I played with Henrik Stenson who is a really nice guy and I really enjoyed the round.
“I made four birdies too which is good. My putting wasn’t quite as good as it had been on Thursday and Friday but it was still all right. I plan just to stick to my game plan tomorrow and we’ll see what happens. But I can’t wait.”
Second placed Wall outshone Kaymer with his start which featured four birdies in a row from the second and, like the leader, he did not drop a shot all day and also finished with a birdie four at the 18th.
“I am happy and if I am all this way out here away from my wife and my boys I am going to try my hardest when I am here,” he said. “I knuckled down in the wintertime and worked hard on the areas of my game that I thought I needed to and I am looking forward to a good season.
“It will be tough to catch Martin but if he hits it in the rough three or four times in the first few holes then we all have a chance so who knows. You just need to keep making solid pars and maybe nicking a few birdies here and there and who knows.
“I think out there you are looking at 68 as a good score so you are just trying to make as many birdies as possible because you know you are going to drop a few. But I actually haven’t dropped a shot since the first six holes of day one so I am obviously doing something right.”
Third placed Stenson continued to feel unsettled from the tee and his uncertainly showed in a round which, although certainly not bad, was not the spectacular one he had hoped for to put serious pressure on his young opponent.
“I made some birdies out there but I am not feeling 100% confident with my long game,” he admitted. “Off the tee I am struggling a little bit and having to hold back and hit a lot of three woods and Martin is obviously in good shape and ripping the driver down there so I was having to play first into the greens almost all the time. I also think I left myself too long an approach shot on a couple of occasions.
“I just tried to go out there and tried to push him but it is kind of hard to try and get back on somebody who starts birdie, birdie. I just played pretty good on the front nine to make the gap a little smaller but then he finished strongly.
“I was trying to make up ground but then hit two or three wayward shots that cost me two bogeys coming in. But that is the name of the game when you are playing catch up but I will keep trying and if I can’t win, I’ll play for second place.
“In fairness to Martin I think it has been a one man show this week so far and if he continues with a solid round tomorrow it is his tournament. I think he has made it pretty clear to all of us that he wants this one.”
Aside from Wall the man who made the best move of the day was Lee Westwood who matched his fellow Englishman’s 65 to move up to fourth place on nine under par 207 and still in with an outside chance of the title.
Westwood did drop a couple of shots at the fifth and the ninth but more than made up for that with an excellent showing which saw him start with three birdies in a row and also end in style too with birdies at the 17th and 18th.
“I have just really picked up from where I left off last year,” he said. “I had a lot of top tens towards the end of last year and I really started to feel very confident. I didn’t think I drove the ball well around the front nine but I got it out in a couple under but then I started to hit a lot more fairways on the back nine obviously and shot five under round the back nine which is good.
“I was unlucky not to win the car on the 15th because I hit it to about nine inches there so I am pleased with the way things are going. I just felt rusty the first couple of days because I didn’t play much in the last ten weeks other than Tiger’s tournament, even when I was at home. It has mainly been short game stuff. So to use one of the old football terms, I wasn’t quite match fit at the start of the week, but it’s coming.
“I wanted to try and shoot mid 60s. I started the day nine under par so I have a chance of winning the tournament. You saw in Shanghai when Phil Mickelson and Ross Fisher came back to the pack. I was 12 behind with nine holes to play or something silly like that so daft things can happen on the golf course but you have to make them happen at the same time. It is no good waiting for people to come back to you, you have to put some pressure on yourself.
“The nearer the finishing post comes for Martin the harder it will get. It is not an easy golf course and if you start missing fairways it becomes very difficult. It is not easy with a lead and I know when I’ve played golf tournaments with a five or six shot lead, your mindset turns to the thoughts of ‘I don’t want to let this one slip or I’m going to look a fool’ sort of thing rather than concentrating on what you have been doing to get you five or six in front. So we’ll see what happens.”