Dubai: England’s Paul Casey reignited his love affair with the UAE as he shot a sensational 64 to take command of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on Saturday.
The 43-year-old, who has twice claimed the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, is 18 holes away from adding the Dubai Classic to his trophy cabinet that already holds
20 top professional pieces of silverware. The former world No. 3 carded a brilliant and bogey-free eight-under — with six birdies and an eagle at the last — to lead by one stroke from Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre.
Casey’s last win on the European Tour came at the Porsche Open in Germany in 2019, where he defeated his closest rival this week MacIntyre by one stroke. He holds that same advantage going into Sunday’s final round in Dubai.
MacIntyre, who at 24 is a relative pup compared to veteran Casey, is chasing his second triumph on the European Tour, having picked up the Aphrodite Hills Showdown in Cyprus in November last year.
He shot a roller-coaster 67 after an opening front nine that included three birdies, an eagle, a bogey and a double-bogey — his excellent hole-out from off the green on the third being the pick of the bunch.
South Africa’s Brandon Stone is on 13-under in third spot after he recovered from a wobble on 12 to eagle 13 and get back in contention.
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Sergio Garcia, the 2017 ODDC winner, surged back into the reckoning with a 67 — again including an excellent eagle two on 17 — to take fourth spot alongside Laurie Canter.
Kalle Samooja of Finland is sixth on his own on nine-under, one ahead of trio Justin Rose, Justin Harding and overnight leader Thomas Thomas Detry, who carded a disappointing two-over 74.
Casey produced a stunning birdie-eagle finish to overhaul MacIntyre at the top on Saturday and turn his three-shot deficit at the start of the day on Detry into a one-stroke lead. Victory would make it a hat-trick of wins in the UAE after his triumphs in Abu Dhabi in 2007 and 2009.
“It’s iconic,” he said. “I can see the very impressive list of winners, those photos of them behind the 18th green. It’s cool — iconic trophy, iconic event. Dubai has given so much to golf, especially the European Tour, so to win would be very, very cool but there’s a long way to go yet.”
Casey admitted he is now one of the veterans of the European tour at 43, but he has taken inspiration from Ryder Cup teammate Lee Westwood, who claimed the Race to Dubai title in December at the age of 46.
“We always say, if you stay the same level you’re going to go backwards in this game and every year it gets better and better and better, every year the young guys come up longer and stronger and they putt it better,” Casey said. “There’s no question that I’m lucky that my physical attributes have allowed me to maybe give me another five years. Westy is inspiration. I saw him this morning. He was looking fit. I’ve still got to chase those guys.”
1 Paul Casey (ENG) -15
2 Robert MacIntyre (SCO) -14
3 Brandon Stone (RSA) -13
4 Sergio Garcia (ESP) -10
Laurie Canter (ENG) -10
6 Kalle Samooja (FIN) -9
7 Justin Rose (ENG) -8
Justin Harding (ENG) -8
Thomas Detry (BEL) -8