Wood carves out healthy advantage

1/25/2013 1:00:00 PM
Chris Wood   (Getty Images)
Chris Wood (Getty Images)
After 19 top-ten finishes, England’s Chris Wood has an excellent chance to claim his first European Tour victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

In a field containing no fewer than 80 European Tour winners, it was the 25 year old who raced clear at Doha Golf Club with an eight under par 64 to reach 15 under for the week.

Wood, whose European Tour near-misses include the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry, finds himself the man to catch entering the final day after bursting from two behind to three ahead.

Ryder Cup stars Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer were among the four overnight leaders, but they managed only 70 and 72 respectively - Garcia after going in the water with his third shot to the par five last and taking six.

The other two halfway pacesetters, Australian Marcus Fraser and Portugal's Ricardo Santos, fell back as well and joint second now are former BMW PGA Champion Simon Khan, also round in 64, New Zealand's 2005 US Open winner Michael Campbell and Swede Alex Noren.

The highlight of Wood's round was an eagle on the 548-yard tenth. The World Number 142 had already notched five birdies, but an eight foot putt lifted him clear of the field and there he stayed.

After a three-putt bogey at the 12th he came back with a six foot birdie putt two holes later and pitched even closer on the 307-yard 16th.

Wood said: "I'm very excited. I wouldn't say it was one of my best rounds, but I played very solidly and was giving myself loads of chances."

Although he is chasing his first victory on his home circuit, Wood did capture the Thailand Open last August.

He was fifth in the 2008 Open Championship as an amateur, and it was 12 months later that the Claret Jug was agonisingly close. He shot a closing 67, but bogeyed the last and missed the play-off between Tom Watson and Stewart Cink by one.

There have been three runner-up finishes since then, including when Darren Clarke overturned Wood’s four shot lead entering the final round in Mallorca shortly before the Northern Irishman’s Open triumph in 2011, but Wood feels he is well prepared to defend a lead now.

“Going out today I thought as long as I kept myself in the mix going into tomorrow, then I was going to be really looking forward to it. Leading gives me a bit of a cushion,” he said.

“Obviously it's going to be hard. It's hard to win any tournament on The European Tour, so it's going to be difficult.”

Khan began day three in 31st place, but birdied six of the first seven holes and eight of the first 13.

The 40 year old, 486th on the Official World Golf Ranking after just one top-ten finish since his Wentworth Club triumph, had to settle for parring in from there, but said: "It's been a tough couple of years since winning at Wentworth and it's amazing that the feelings start to come back quickly."

Campbell knows all about a loss of form. Just six months ago he was not even in the world's top 900, but he has fought his way back to 264th and after a third successive 68 said: "The confidence is increasing every day."

Noren's 66 contained four birdies in the last seven holes and that relegated Garcia to joint fifth with South African Branden Grace.

Kaymer is down in a tie for 11th and has six shots to make up, while World Number Four Justin Rose's 71 left him nine adrift in joint 31st, two shots behind World Number Five Louis Oosthuizen.