Justin Rose consolidated his lead in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Saturday after firing a 68 to take a two-stroke advantage into the final round.
The 32-year-old English world No. 5 was at 12-under for the tournament after three rounds, one clear of Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who both came in with 69s.
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee was alone at nine-under after a 66, with England’s David Howell (68), Richie Ramsay of Scotland (67) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain (71) a further shot back.
With tournament favorites Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods absent, having missed the cut, Rose is the top-ranked player left in the field and a win at his first attempt would be the perfect start to the season for him.
“I guess I strengthened the lead, if you like, one to two shots, I guess that’s always good,” Rose said. “I played really, really well today. Every time I had the club in the hand I was telling the guys outside that I felt like I was going to hit a good shot and that’s not always the case.”
Leading by one overnight at eight-under, Rose bogeyed the first.
He then fell into a four-way tie for the lead after a few holes alongside Donaldson, Fernandez-Castano and Olesen, but in perfect playing conditions Rose accelerated away with five birdies in six holes from the fourth to move three strokes clear of the field at 12-under.
Another birdie followed at the 12th where he hit his approach to within three feet and at four clear he looked capable at that stage of running away with the tournament.
Playing in the group directly in front, Olesen, tipped by many to break into the world top 20 this year, and Donaldson tried hard to hang onto the Englishman’s coat-tails and they were given some encouragement when Rose had his first bogey of the day at the 13th.
The door opened further shortly after when Rose dropped another shot at the 17th and Olesen almost holed his approach to the 18th for a closing birdie, matched by Donaldson.
The lead was suddenly down to one stroke, but Rose feathered his cushion with an approach to one foot at the last for birdie.
In the final round he was set to play for the first time with Olesen, a player he sees as “a good ball striker — a fit, strong, young guy.”
Olesen, who won for the first time at the Sicilian Open in April last year, has recently broken into the world top 50, ensuring he will make his debut at the Masters, in three months time.