Steve Webster of England shot a battling two-under-par 70 in windy conditions to share the lead with Rafa Cabrera-Bello heading into the final round of the US$2.5 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club.
Cabrera-Bello, the halfway leader after rounds of 66 and 65, signed for a 73 to match Webster’s clubhouse total of 12-under as Doha’s notorious strong winds made the Championship Course a far tougher challenge than on the first two days.
Young Frenchman Adrien Saddier sank six birdies in his first seven holes before signing for an early bogey-free 64, which proved to be the day’s low round by four shots. The 21-year-old soared 42 places up the leaderboard to tie for third at 11-under with Danish star Thorbjørn Olesen (68) and South African Thomas Aiken (70).
Paul Lawrie is just two shots off the lead after a 69, as the 45-year-old Scot bids to become the tournament’s first three-time champion, having won two years ago and in 1999, ahead of his Open Championship win.
First-round leader George Coetzee (73), Johan Carlsson (72), Mikko Ilonen (71) and Fabrizio Zanotti (68) also share sixth place on 10-under.
Sergio Garcia (69) moved to nine-under as the Spanish World No. 11 targets a first win in Doha on his eighth successive appearance, although several other big stars failed to trouble the leaders.
World No. 3 Henrik Stenson (74), Martin Kaymer (73) and two-time major winner John Daly (77) are three-under, one ahead of four-time major winner Ernie Els (71), while Luke Donald (74) is one-under.
Cabrera-Bello, 29, started the day at 13-under and moved further ahead with a birdie on two. After a bogey on five, he moved back to 14-under with a birdie on the 10th, but bogeys on 13 and 15 set back his bid for a third European Tour win.
“It's definitely been tougher today. The wind has picked up and it's made everything a bit more difficult,” said Cabrera-Bello.
“I'm a little bit disappointed for not keeping a couple shots ahead of the pack. I did see I was three shots ahead at one point, but I knew there was still lots of golf to play and anything could happen.”
The 29-year-old Spaniard has a solid track record in the Middle East and remained confident heading into the final round, buoyed by a fourth-place finish in Abu Dhabi last week.
“We know that anything can happen, so it doesn't really matter if you're leading or two or three back at this stage,” said Cabrera-Bello, who won his second European Tour title in Dubai two years ago.
“As long as you are at the top of the leaderboard after round four, that is all that really matters, and hopefully tomorrow I can play as well as I did in the first two rounds and that will be enough.”
Webster, who finished fourth in Doha last year, was two over after his first five holes, but the 39-year-old Englishman battled back with birdies on seven, 11, 14 and 15 to set the clubhouse target.
“I don't know what happened at first, but it wasn't pretty. I hit it really good on the range and I think I got a bit cocky on the course and hit so many bad shots on the first six holes. I hit a really good putt on 11 and thought it feels a little bit better now. On the back nine I gave myself a few chances, but the first six holes were like I never played golf before.”
Like Cabrera-Bello, Webster is searching for his third European Tour victory and is especially eager for another title after finishing runner-up five times on the circuit since his last triumph.
“It has been too long, since 2007; that was a great moment for me,” Webster said. “I'm playing really good. I played good last week, but just didn't make putts. This week I swung the club good apart from the first six holes today, so I look forward to tomorrow.”
The 2014 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters runs from Wednesday 22 January to Saturday 25 January. Final day tickets are still available to buy on the door at Doha Golf Club for QAR150. Entry is free for children under 15 years of age. For more information visit the tournament’s official website, www.qatar-masters.com.
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