Els looms large as Stenson keeps lead in Qatar
BY iseekgolf.com | European PGA Tour | 2006 Qatar Masters | 29 Jan 2006
Swede Henrik Stenson battled high winds to retain his one-shot lead after the third round of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters on Saturday with title holder Ernie Els looming in the shadows.
Stenson scrambled to a one-under-par 71 at Doha Golf Club for a three-day total of 11-under-par 205, one better than English veteran Paul Broadhurst and Sweden’s Niclas Fasth who charged up the leaderboard with a 67 and 68 respectively.
World number five Els, playing in his first tournament of 2006, fired a 69, his best of the week so far, and will enter the last round six off the pace. Last year, the Big Easy came from five shots back to pip Stenson after a closing 65 and while he said he would need “half a miracle” to retain his crown, Els warned that he was close to producing a low number.
The Asian Tour’s challenge in the co-sanctioned event with the European Tour was left to Thammanoon Srirot of Thailand, who is the highest placed golfer at tied 12th. He produced a 71 for a 211 total, six behind the leader and tied with Els. Compatriots Prayad Marksaeng (75), Thongchai Jaidee (73) and Chawalit Plaphol (71) are a further stroke back in tied 17th place.
Els was frustrated to leave shots on the course, rueing a cold putter where he dropped two three-putt bogeys. “I didn’t putt well at all. I had many chances but I didn’t take them. I three putted on the fourth for bogey, I missed a short birdie chance on the seventh from four feet and missed chances at 11 and 12 and three putted the 13th as well, so unfortunately the putter didn’t work well. But at least I am hitting the ball nicely. My stroke feels good and everything but I was just a little bit off,” said Els.
The three-time major winner conceded Stenson is firmly in the driver’s seat and said it would take another mighty effort to pull the rug from under the cool Swede. "Today was encouraging but I did feel I had to get somewhere into the mid-60s to have a chance. But it is what it is and I have to try and play for second spot if the rest of the guys don’t get too far away, or maybe the top five.
“He (Stenson) looks too good now, he likes the course and he looks really solid so it will be half a miracle if I have a chance tomorrow. But I will just try and shoot as low as I can and we will see where it goes. But I am close to doing something really good,” said Els.
Stenson, searching for his third European Tour title, was disappointed with a three-putt bogey at the last hole but is determined to lay last year’s ghost to rest. “It was a very disappointing finish. I felt I gave away two easy shots in the last three holes,” said Stenson, who missed a birdie chance from two feet on 16 when a gust of wind threw him off balance.
“I’m just unhappy with the way it all finished. Luckily, it’s not Sunday, it’s Saturday and I still have a shot at it. I can look forward and have a good day tomorrow. Ernie still has a chance if he plays as well as he did last year but I can only think about my own game and try to have a good day. I don’t particularly pay attention on who is behind and what they can do. I’ve got plenty on my own,” added the Swede, who finished runner-up in Abu Dhabi last week.
Thammanoon was pleased to fight back from being two over through eight holes, bogeying the par three challenges on the third and eighth. But birdies on nine, 10 and 16 left him on the fringe of contention alongside Els.
“The wind made it very difficult as it blew from the opposite direction today. I was happy to come back with three birdies and I’ll aim for a top-five finish or maybe challenge for the title tomorrow,” said the Thai, a five-time winner on the Asian Tour.
Chawalit said Asian players needed to learn to play better in the wind. With gusts swirling around the Doha Golf Club, the Thai struggled with his distance control but battled gallantly to salvage his round. “We rarely get these kind of winds on the Asian Tour and it is a problem for us,” said Chawalit. “I struggled with my distances but I was pleased with how I fought.”
The smooth-swinging Thai birdied the opening two holes with some crisp iron play but struggled with bogeys on the sixth, eighth and 10th after landing in thick rough. Birdies on the 11, 12 and 15 saw him end with a 212 total, and looking for a strong finish on Sunday.
Argentine Ricardo Gonzalez, the co-first round lead with Stenson, and England’s Richard Finch are tied fourth on 207, followed by Ryder Cup star Paul McGinley, Nick Dougherty, Robert Karlsson and Darren Fichardt a further stroke back. World number two Vijay Singh shot a 73 and was well down the leaderboard in tied 51st place on 217.
Source – Asian Tour