Justin Rose takes 2-shot lead at Abu Dhabi
Englishman had a stretch of 6 birdies over 9 holes
Justin Rose extended his lead at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Saturday, shooting a 4-under 68 for a two-shot advantage over Jamie Donaldson of Wales and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark.
A day after top-ranked Rory McIlroy and second-ranked Tiger Woods missed the cut, the fifth-ranked Rose made his third round look easy with seven birdies. After three-putting on the first for a bogey, the Englishman had a stretch of six birdies over nine holes —including sinking a 20-footer on 5 that gave him back the lead and an approach shot on the ninth that rolled to four feet from the hole for birdie — for an overall 204.
"Delighted about the day," said Rose, who has been at the top of the leaderboard all week. "I strengthened my lead, if you like, one to two shots. I guess that's always good."
Rose cooled down on the back nine, hitting errant drives on Nos. 13 and 17 that led to bogeys and reduced a four-shot lead to two. After Olesen (69) and Donaldson (69) birdied No. 18, Rose responded by nearly chipping in on the same hole and finished with his 7th birdie.
"I was a little bit mad about the bogey at 17 because I didn't feel I did an awful lot wrong there," Rose said. "I've been very resilient and bounced back well."
Coming off one of his best seasons where he finished second to McIlroy at the Dubai World Championship, Rose said a victory Sunday would boost the chase for his first major.
"Anyone that wins this week ... you can say you've beaten the best players, and that's exactly what you need to do," Rose said
Olesen and Donaldson struggled to make putts early but ended happy to be in the final round mix. Olesen hit an approach shot from a sandy rough on the 18th that landed a few feet from the pin for a birdie. Donaldson matched him on the 18th with a clutch putt for his second birdie in four holes.
"Very happy with the score, 3-under was great," Donaldson said. "A little bit scrappy at the start but (I) recovered really well in places."
Playing alongside Rose, Olesen said he would need a strong start if he was going to overtake the Englishman.
"It looks like he's playing really well but, if I can get some birdies in quickly, I think it can be exciting," said the 52nd-ranked Dane who is paired with Rose for the final round. "I'm going to try to be aggressive tomorrow. I thought I was pretty aggressive today but I didn't hole the putts I needed to."
Olesen won his first tournament in 2012 and joined McIlroy as one of Nike's new signings this year.
As part of the deal, Olesen followed McIlroy in making a complete switch to Nike clubs. In contrast to early adjustment problems for two-time major winner McIroy, the 23-year-old Dane said he is "enjoying his equipment."
"It was probably good for me that no one really concentrated on me and I could do my own thing," said Olesen, who will be paired with Rose on Sunday.
Rose's playing partner Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain closed to within a shot of the leader after a birdie on the second. But he had trouble hitting the greens after that and fell back. He showed signs of recovery when he sank a 40-foot putt on the seventh but his drive on No. 16 hit a cart path and bounced into the water for a costly bogey.
Fernandez-Castano finished four shots back and tied for fifth with Richie Ramsay (67) of Scotland and David Howell (68) of England on 208.
Several players made late charges to get themselves into contention, including Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (66) with seven birdies — opening and closing with two in a row — to move fourth on 207.