Friday, 29 January 2016
Day 3 Highlights - Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

Paul Lawrie and Branden Grace will go head-to-head on the final day of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters as both men chase history at Doha Golf Club.

Lawrie is seeking to become the first man to lift the Mother of Pearl Trophy three times after his triumphs in 1999 and 2012, while a win for Grace would make him the first player to successfully defend the title.

On a day when the trademark winds in Doha were the strongest they had been all week, Lawrie was a picture of consistency, recording 16 pars and birdies on the 14th and 18th to get to 13 under and open up a two-shot lead over Grace and Thorbjørn Olesen.

The South African outdid Lawrie with a run of 14 straight pars but they were book-ended by birdies on the first, 16th, 17th and 18th, while Olesen also finished well, with birdies on the 16th and 18th helping him to a 69.

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood was then at ten under alongside Rafa Cabrera-Bello, with 15 players within five shots of the lead.

World Number 11 Grace arrived in Qatar talking of his desire to break into the top ten after four consecutive top tens to start the season but for Lawrie, the ambitions are closer to home.

The Scot made the European Ryder Cup team both the previous years he won this event and a third victory would vault him into contention for Hazeltine in the autumn.

Every week that we play, your job is to get yourself in contention with nine holes to play and hopefully we can do that on the front nine tomorrow - Paul Lawrie

"There's a lot of good players behind me. Branden Grace is obviously defending champion, won here before and well up the World Rankings.

"So tomorrow is going to be a different challenge but I'm looking forward to it.

"I had a couple top tens back-to-back last year at KLM and Denmark and really should have been higher up in both of them. I had a good chance to win both tournaments on the back nine.

"It's not as though it's been years, and hopefully I kind of get in there and hit the shots that I'm hitting and knock a few putts in and it all goes well."

Despite signing for a 70 on a day when only six players could manage rounds in the 60s, Lawrie admitted to some frustration as the birdie putts failed to drop.

"I was a little frustrated today on the middle of the round," he said. "I felt as though I hit an awful lot of good putts that didn't go in, but I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

"It was nice to end the day on a positive note and hit a nice putt and it actually go in the right pace and right side of the hole, which is what we're always looking to do.

"It was a tough day, the wind was blowing. You could tell by the scoreboard that it was hard to make birdies. So I got around there a bit frustrated but, two under, it's a good day."

The par five first brought a shower of birdies with Grace, Olesen and Andrew Johnston all moving a shot closer to Lawrie before the final group got started.

When they did, it was Nicolas Colsaerts who took advantage, making a birdie to get to the top of the leaderboard. He was not there for long, though, as the big-hitting Belgian bogeyed the second to drop back to ten under before he recovered with another gain.

Johnston and Olesen both slipped up on the fifth to drop further from the lead while the leading duo both secured pars on the fourth and fifth to maintain their advantage.

Johnston was in the group at nine under and they were joined by Lee Slattery who turned in 33 thanks to birdies on the first, second and ninth.

Johnston picked a stroke straight back up on the sixth courtesy of a wonderful approach but Slattery was flying and he put his approach on the tenth close to get to ten under.

He was joined there by Colsaerts who found trouble off the tee on the sixth to put Lawrie back out in front on his own, while Olesen got back to nine under after an excellent tee shot on the eighth.

Slattery made his first mistake of the day on the 11th as he three-putted to drop back to nine under and when Colsaerts let one go on the par five ninth, Johnston was all alone in second.

He soon had a share of the lead as he got up and down from 109 yards on the tenth to birdie that hole for the third time this week, but he gave the shot straight back on the 11th after flying the green and finding some nasty rough.

Cabrera-Bello had also birdied the tenth to get back to nine under in a battling effort. The Spaniard, who has two top threes in this event, had bogeyed the second and third but his gain at the tenth was added to one at the seventh to be level par for the day.

Lawrie had his first real scare on the 12th but holed from eight feet after a poor chip and maintained his run on the 13th where a wayward tee shot saw Colsaerts drop back to eight under.

Grace had gone one better than Lawrie with 14 straight pars after his birdie on the first but broke the pattern with a gain on the 16th, where he was followed in by Fleetwood, who got back to level par for the day.

A first birdie of the day from Lawrie, eight feet up the hill on the 14th, gave him a two-shot lead and Colsaerts' hopes ended as he recorded a triple and then bogeyed the next.

Johnston also bogeyed the 15th and, when he dropped another shot on the 17th, he went tumbling down the leaderboard, but Grace and Fleetwood were heading the other way.

They both birdied the 17th, with Grace putting his tee shot inside five feet, and followed that with further gains on the last to play their way right into contention.

Olesen had made seven straight pars before his two late birdies and playing partner Cabrera-Bello followed him in on both the 16th and 18th after dropping a shot on the 15th.

It looked at that stage that Lawrie would only have a one-shot 54-hole lead but his approach to the 18th was inside ten feet and he rolled home for an unblemished 70.

Slattery finished with seven straight pars to finish at nine under alongside Johnston and Frenchman Grégory Bourdy, who birdied the 15th and 16th to rescue a level par 72.

Pelle Edberg was also four shots behind Lawrie after three birdies and two bogeys in his 71.

Richard Bland recorded the low round of the day with a very impressive 67 in the windy conditions. He birdied the fourth and fifth but dropped a shot on the seventh before birdieing the ninth to turn in 33. He picked a shot up on the 13th and then had a birdie-birdie finish as he seeks a first European Tour win in his 376th event.

Bradley Dredge, Grégory Havret, Ricardo Gouveia and Bernd Wiesberger all finished with 70s to also sit five shots off the lead alongside Johan Carlsson, who signed for a 72.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1GRACE, BrandenRSA18-14
T2CABRERA-BELLO, RafaESP18-12
T2OLESEN, ThorbjørnDEN18-12
T4DREDGE, BradleyWAL18-11
T4JOHNSTON, AndrewENG18-11
T4SLATTERY, LeeENG18-11

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