Abu Dhabi: Lee Westwood rolled back the years with a sensational 65 on third day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to take control of the tournament on 14-under par on Saturday.
The Englishman, 43, has been on the European Tour since 1994 and has more than 40 titles to his name.
Despite now being one of the veterans on the tour, the 2009 Dubai World Championship winner showed he still has what it takes to rub shoulders with the best as he rattled in three birdies and a brilliant eagle on the front nine to move into the outright lead.
Three more birdies came on the back nine to outweigh a lone bogey on the 14th.
Westwood’s seven-under on Saturday equalled his best ever score for a single round, and he was pretty pleased to be sitting at the top of the heap.
“I played well.” he said. “I holed a couple of putts early on which gave me some momentum and then hit a brilliant shot into eight, the par five, with a hybrid, 266 to about three feet. Then backed it up with a birdie at 9, so a bit of momentum, got on a roll. Had birdie chances on the back nine. A bit unlucky on 14, came out straight left, snagged the hole, but it was a solid finish. Birdied 16 which is not the easiest hole on the course and I got a nice birdie at the last.”
Westwood also has a simple approach about what needs to be done on Sunday.
“I just need to go one better than everybody else,” he said. “I can’t tell the future. I’m just going to go out there and play as well as I can, and if it’s good enough, then great. I know I’m talented enough to win the tournament. It’s just a case of applying myself.”
Westwood was closely followed by Bernd Wiesberger as the big Austrian made a late charge with consecutive birdies on final three holes to also close on 65.
Halfway leader Francesco Laporta is still in contention as he signed for a 69 to sit alongside Wiesberger in joint second on -13.
“I struggled the first two days,” said Wiesberger. “I think I hit more fairways today than I did the first two days, and normally then I can get myself into positions to take on the flags, which I did well. Funny enough I hit a couple really nice ones into some of the holes on the back nine, didn’t take them and oddly enough made a few at the end, 18 and 20-footers which kind of evened them out.
“So far, it’s been good on the greens and hopefully continue that into tomorrow.
Matthew Fitzpatrick is on fourth spot on -12 and Sergio Garcia will be ready to pounce on any slip-ups on the final day as he sits on 11-under alongside Kurt Kitayama.
World No. 1 Brooks Koepka shot a two-under round of 70 and looks out of the running as he sits on five-under.
-14 Lee Westwood (England) 69 68 65
-13 Francesco Laporta (Italy) 71 63 69
Bernd Wiesberger (Austria) 69 69 65
-12 Matthew Fitzpatrick (England) 68 67 69
-11 Sergio Garcia (Spain) 67 69 69
Kurt Kitayama (USA) 67 70 68
-10 Rafa Cabrera Bello (Spain) 67 68 71
Thomas Detry (Belgium) 69 70 67