Dubai: Darren Fichardt will take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Qatar Masters as he seeks a second victory in Doha. The South African, who won this event in 2003, carded a one-under-par 70 at Education City Golf Club in a round which included a double bogey and two further dropped shots as the field again battled howling winds in the Qatari capital.
The five-time European Tour winner recovered from dropping three shots in just two holes on the 13th and 14th, with birdies on the 16th and 17th, to record a seven under par total after three rounds, one stroke ahead of England’s Jack Senior, who carded a level par 71. Senior will go in search of a maiden European Tour victory on Sunday.
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar is third on five-under after a round of 68, while Frenchman Antoine Rozner made the biggest move on the leaderboard, rising 35 places after also recording a three under par round.
Rozner shares fourth with Joachim B Hansen of Denmark and Welshman Jamie Donaldson on four under par.
After his round, Fichardt said: “When I started today I couldn’t get the pace right, the greens sped up significantly with the wind. I was three-whacking like it was going out of fashion, on every green. Luckily I figured my swing out on the range before I teed off. I said to my wife to give ourselves opportunities and to try and get our first putt past the hole. When they started dropping I started to get a nice rhythm and a nice flow.
“Then I got to the par five 13 — that’s a hell of a par five, plus wind. I walked off there making a double and felt a bit out of sorts. I three-whacked the next green. I tried to gather my thoughts and realise it’s tough out there, everyone was struggling and to try and finish with a couple of pars coming home — luckily I got two birdies.”
Senior added: “That was a battle from start to finish. I got off to a half-decent start, quite a quick start really. Then the wind started gusting on the back nine, you just had to hang on for dear life. When we got on the 12th tee we looked at the wind direction, we hit a shot — I think I hit seven iron and pitched it 131 yards — it was really strong at that point.
“I’ll just keep doing and what I can control. All I can do is control what I’m doing. The old saying is it’s one shot at a time but that’s all you’ve got to do. Go out there with a clear head tomorrow and give it my best shot.”
Bhullar is optimistic. He said: “I had a good start to the tournament, four under on day one was pretty solid. Yesterday I hit the ball pretty good and gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities. I made a few silly mistakes in the beginning, but played well on the back nine. That was the time when the wind picked up. I had a feeling of confidence that I could play well in the wind.
“Today from the first hole it was gusting and howling pretty much the whole day. I hit the ball well and gave myself a lot of opportunities, I drove the ball OK and didn’t miss too many fairways. The main target was to keep the ball in play and make sure I was hitting a lot of my shots in regulation to stay in the game.”