Englishman Lee Westwood took the third-round lead at the Dubai Desert Classic after shooting a five-under 67 yesterday to go one shot clear of Rafael Cabrera-Bello of Spain and two others.
Westwood, three shots behind US Open champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn at the start of the third round, had three birdies in his first four holes to move up the leaderboard. He birdied the 13th for a share of the lead with Bjorn and then went ahead by one when the Dane bogeyed the 15th.
Cabrera-Bello birdied the 18th to finish with a three-under 70 to remain tied for second with Stephen Gallacher (68) of Scotland and Marcel Siem (68) of Germany.
German Martin Kaymer (70) and McIlroy (72), who was even par on the day, are among four players with a share of fifth place, two shots back. Bjorn (73) was a further shot back.
Bjorn, 40, and McIlroy began the day 13-under after rattling in a succession of birdies in near-perfect conditions on the first two rounds.
Yesterday was a different story, however, as offshore gusts buffeted the Majlis course and temperatures topped 30°C, making it tough for the leading trio as they teed off under a searing midday sun.
By the turn, Bjorn was one-under for the round, having squandered a 2 foot birdie chance on the ninth green, while McIlroy, 22, was on par.
It could have been worse for McIlroy. Normally so strong on this long game, the world No. 2 missed the fairway from the tee on four of the opening nine holes, most calamitously on the seventh when his drive cleared the lake but then rolled back into the water for a penalty shot.
He made partial amends, staying calm to sink a 20 foot putt down the slope to escape with a bogey.
McIlroy’s solitary birdie of the opening nine came on the second hole, sinking a 10 foot putt on the short par four and all the while Westwood, 38, was gaining ground.