Sunday, 24 January 2016
Rickie Fowler  (Getty Images)
Rickie Fowler (Getty Images)

Rickie Fowler opened up a two-shot lead as the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship was completed on Sunday morning.

After two days of fog delays, it was a glorious morning at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Fowler, who entered the day in a share of the lead, took full advantage with three birdies in seven holes taking him to 13 under.

Joost Luiten had also entered the final day at ten under and, after dropping back, he picked up four shots in his last four holes, including an eagle on the 18th, to be Fowler's nearest challenger.

World Number Three Rory McIlroy was then a further shot back alongside Byeong-hun An, Matthew Baldwin, Branden Grace and Thomas Pieters, who recorded the low score of the round with a 64.

Fowler could have gone even lower than his third round 65 as he saw birdie putts lip out on the 14th and 15th, as well as his eagle effort on the last, and the World Number Six was delighted with his morning's work.

"Definitely pleased, with it being the third round, part on Saturday, part on Sunday," he said.

Nice to move up and get myself in a good position to win this afternoon. Still got a lot of work to do, but the game feels good and I'm excited for the challenge ahead - Rickie Fowler

"I would take another 65, that would be great. But really just got to go out there, get situated, get comfortable and stick to the game plan. Stay patient is a big thing and make sure we stay within the moment."

A win for Fowler would be his second on the European Tour after his victory at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open last year but he will have to hold off the challenge of an experienced field, including McIlroy who has been second here in four of the last five years.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Peter Hanson, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson were four shots off the lead with World Number One Jordan Spieth, who finished his round in the twilight on Saturday, two shots further back.

Pieters was the first man to make a move as he nearly holed his tee shot on the seventh and made it 11 birdies in 19 holes to get into a share of the lead where he was joined by Cabrera-Bello with a birdie on the 11th.

McIlroy struggled to find his range on the tenth as he put his second and third shots in the rough and saw a par putt lip out as he dropped to nine under along with Grace who bogeyed the 17th.

Fowler had finished birdie-birdie on Saturday and, after parring the 12th, he rolled in a monster putt from around 30 feet on the next to move out in front on his own.

Pieters was agonisingly close to a birdie on the eighth but his ball stayed right on the lip and he signed for a 64 to set the clubhouse target at ten under where he was joined by Grace, the South African bouncing back from his bogey with a birdie on the last.

A three-putt from McIlroy on the par three 12th dropped him back to eight under and Fowler, after just lipping out on the 14th and 15th, got one to drop on the 16th and had a two-shot lead.

A birdie from Baldwin on the 18th saw him sign for a 67 and join the group at ten under after missing his first four cuts of the season, while Poulter got in the clubhouse at nine under after a frustrating bogey-bogey-birdie finish.

Birdies on the last were clearly the order of the day as Stenson made one to also sit at nine under alongside fellow Swede Hanson who also had a gain on the 16th to sign for a 69.

Fowler was looking at an eagle on the 18th and, although he saw another putt lip out, he tidied up his birdie to get to 13 under.

An had made birdies at the 11th and 13th on the resumption before dropping a shot on the next but he also made a gain in the last to get to ten under, where he was soon joined by McIlroy whose relief was visible as he birdied the 15th and 17th.

A bogey for Cabrera-Bello on the 16th dropped him to nine under where he was joined by Luiten who went birdie-birdie on the 15th and 16th after a double on the 12th and a bogey on the 14th.

The four-time European Tour winner then eagled the last after a brilliant second shot left him a mid-range putt and a place in the final group with Fowler and Pieters.

Andy Sullivan, who triple bogeyed the ninth on Saturday to drop out of a two-shot lead, birdied the 18th to get to eight under after bogeys on the 13th and 14th and he was alongside Alejandro Cañizares, Thomas Bjørn, Thongchai Jaidee, Shiv Kapur, Robert Rock and Fabrizio Zanotti.

American amateur Bryson DeChambeau had teed off in the final group on Saturday but signed for a 78 with a bogey and two doubles upon the resumption to drop to two under.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1FOWLER, RickieUSA18-16
2PIETERS, ThomasBEL18-15
T3STENSON, HenrikSWE18-14
T5SIEM, MarcelGER18-11
T5SPIETH, JordanUSA18-11

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