Johan Edfors held his nerve to maintain his lead in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy while Andrew Coltart rolled back the years to move within a stroke going into the final round.
Sweden’s Edfors held his game together to complete a third round of 69 to move to 12 under par 204 but with a chasing pack including three former champions on his tail, the Swede will have to be at his best to claim the title.
Coltart, who won the inaugural event in 1998, took full advantage of the benign conditions at Doha Golf Club to shoot a seven under par 65 to lie just one off the pace. His low score of the week was matched by World Number Eight Adam Scott, winner six years ago, who celebrated Australia Day by moving to nine under par and a share of fifth place with Swede Henrik Stenson, the 2006 champion, sandwiched in between alongside South African Charl Schwartzel just two shots off the lead.
Coltart’s resurgence was the most impressive as he looks to regain his playing privileges after losing his card at the end of last season. With very limited starts, he will be relying on invites throughout the season unless he can conjure up a dream final round and bounce back with a victory.
“You get very, very low,” admitted the Scot. “You start asking questions about yourself and you know, you look at kids and the whole thing starts to smack you in the face. These experiences are very, very humbling but very, very good because you start to appreciate a lot of things roundabout you, family and friends and the situation you're in compared to others more unfortunate. That actually is a huge plus.
“But you still get quite low when you come back every Friday and you're not making any money and you look at your kids and they are laughing and joking which is a good thing but you're just wondering when the next cheque is going to come in.”
He added: “It means a lot just to be able to shoot that score again and to get myself back into contention again. Hopefully the position I'm in, people will pick up and sort of want me in their field, their tournament. That would be very nice and obviously I'd like to try and win.”
First he must overhaul Edfors. The winner of three titles in 2006 admitted to feeling nervous at the start of the third round and missed a short birdie putt on his opening hole. He made no such mistake on the second and went on to pick up another three birdies with just the one dropped shot. He did, however, scramble well, particularly on the 15th where he played a miraculous shot from the wasteland, over the water and from looking like dropping a shot almost made birdie.
“I played pretty well on the front nine today and then had a little slump there at the end and really sort of crawled into the scorer's hut,” he said. “But I'm happy with the way I played, and I will need a low score tomorrow to have a chance of winning.
Dubai-based Swede Stenson clearly has a fondness for the Middle East having won in Qatar in 2006 and Dubai last year. At two strokes off the lead after a round of 67 he has every chance of winning a third Gulf title in as many years.
South African Schwartzel is also on ten under par after a round of 69 that promised much more when he birdied three of the first four holes, but the fireworks came to an end as he mixed two birdies with two dropped shots on his remaining 14 holes. Nevertheless it was a good effort considering he had been up half the night through sickness.
Scott, the highest-ranked player in the field, made great strides with a 65 to lie on nine under par as he looks to repeat his success in 2002, and sits alongside two other young talents – South African Anton Haig and England’s Ross McGowan.
Scott’s playing partner for the third round was, however, another of the game’s most exciting young players, Rory McIlro of Northern Ireland. They matched each other shot for shot until Scott got the edge with a birdie on the last but he was more than impressed with the teenager’s game.
“It reminded me of myself when I came out on Tour,” said Scott. “The only thing he doesn’t have is experience and the way he is playing he will get that quick. I am looking forward to what he can do as he has a lot of talent and the sky is the limit for him.”
McIlroy finished just four shots off the lead after his 66 alongside Frenchman Christian Cevaer (68) and Scot Colin Montgomerie (69).