Big names prowling in Abu Dhabi

1/28/2012 10:46:18 AM
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were still just off the lead midway through the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

Playing together for the third day running, two of the biggest attractions in golf both went to the turn with a two under par 34 to stand seven under par, one behind Swede Peter Hanson, South African James Kingston and France's Jean-Baptiste Gonnet.

They took over at the top from 22 year old Dane Thorbjørn Olesen, who after going two clear with a birdie on the long second opened the door to the chasing pack with bogeys at the fifth and sixth.

Ryder Cup player Hanson was only 32nd at halfway, but covered the World Golf Ranking and giving one of the best performances of his career so far, and Kingston, who had covered the front nine in a superb 31.

Woods and McIlroy both birdied the first from ten feet and Northern Ireland's US Open Champion converted a similar chance on the short fourth. He then three-putted two holes later, but almost aced the short seventh.

Looking for his second successive victory after going more than two years without a win, Woods also birdied the seventh, but was thankful not to find the water off the ninth tee when his right foot slipped as he drove.

World Number One Luke Donald threatened to climb into contention when he birdied three of the first four, but then came a bogey six at the long eighth - he had to play his second shot left-handed from beside a tree - and a double bogey on the next.

With another bogey coming on the 14th he was down to joint 55th, but World Number Two Lee Westwood, having struggled with a neck injury, was going in the right direction. Three under for the day with one to go, he had improved ten spots to 30th on three under.

No fewer than seven players became tied for the lead - and they included both Woods and Scot Paul Lawrie when each of them two-putted the long tenth for birdie.

South African George Coetzee found the most dramatic way to join them, though, sinking an eagle putt of nearly 30 feet at the 18th for a 65.

There were another six only one behind, McIlroy among them.

Hanson had a best-of-the-week 64 to set the clubhouse target of nine under, but Woods went into the lead on his own for the first time by holing from seven feet at the 12th and then over 20 feet on the 14th.

McIlroy had had seven pars in a row by then and found himself three back.

Woods was compiling an impressive round, but so was England's Robert Rock and when he matched the American's putt on the 14th they were both five under for the day and ten under for the tournament, a stroke ahead of Hanson, Olesen and Italian Francesco Molinari (66).

McIlroy broke his par run with a seven foot birdie putt on the short 15th and was two behind.

Woods had sole possession of top spot again when Rock failed to recover from driving into sand on the 16th, but the BMW Italian Open champion was back level with a five foot birdie putt on the next.

McIlroy also birdied there to be only one back, but that became two when Woods reached the green in two on the last and two-putted for birdie and a superb round of 66.