Four players share the lead with another six just one shot back as the Asian Tour heads for a thrilling climax at the Els Club on Sunday.
Major champion Darren Clarke and Jbe Kruger were yesterday’s big movers as they both went round in 64 to lift themselves into contention.
Going into the final day, Korea’s Wang Jeung-hun and Kruger of South Africa and the Indian duo of Arjun Atwal and Shiv Kapur are tied for the lead at 10 under, with Clarke lurking behind in a chasing pack which includes Chapchai Nirat and Pariya Junhasavasdikul, both of Thailand, Daisuke Kataoka of Japan, Simon Yates of Scotland and India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar.
— DubaiOpen (@DubaiOpen) December 21, 2014
Two under at the start of the day, South African Kruger, who aced the par-3 second hole with a seven iron, and eagled the par-5 eighth, also rattled off seven birdies against three bogeys in his sterling round.
“When I holed out at the second, I knew something special was around the corner. It has been a long year for me, so it’s special to be able to put together a round like that,” said Kruger.
“I am definitely excited to be in this position. It’s all about putting at the end of the day and if I can do that well, I think I stand a good chance.”
India’s Kapur overcame a stuttering start to sign for a 69, playing the back nine with the attitude he displayed on the front nine at the 2013 Open Championship in Muirfield where he birdied six of the first seven holes in the round one.
“I came up one short of doing that when I missed my eagle putt on the last hole but I am happy with the way I fought back,” said Kapur who made a bogey-bogey start to his third round.
“There was a time where I could have completely thrown myself out of the tournament, but I’m tied for the lead, which is not too bad.”
Atwal, Asia’s number one in 2003, has not contended since becoming the first Indian to win on the PGA Tour in 2010 and reckons the hottest putter will walk away with the Dubai Open crown.
“It’s been a while,” said the seven-time Asian Tour winner. “Just make a lot of putts. Make a lot of birdies. It’s going to be fun I think.”
Clarke, who won the Open Championship in 2011, came to the party, matching the best score of the tournament thus far with six birdies and a chip-in eagle (par-4, 16th) in his bogey-free round.
“I’ve played really well all week but made no putts and made a mess of the last hole, the ninth yesterday (for double). I hit an awful lot of good shots and holed a couple of putts today,” said Clarke.
“I shot two 64s in a Pro Am event in Turkey two weeks ago, the Banco Classic, so I’m playing better again which is nice. I’m here to play. I’m not here to make up the numbers. My timing has been off a little bit because of all the weight that I’ve lost. So because of that, it’s taken a bit of time.”
— Darren Clarke (@DarrenClarke60) December 21, 2014
England’s Joshua White kept the MENA Golf Tour flag flying, returning a 70 to move into a tie for 13th on seven-under, three ahead of Christopher Cannon and four better than Lee Corfield.
World No1 Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Matteo Manassero have all confirmed their participation for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship next month.
– #Quiz360: WIN a bungee jump with Gravity Zone
While places are quickly filling up, there’s still time to become a volunteer and be part of the 10th edition of the tournament.
Volunteers, who will play an integral role in the Championship’s success, will complete a variety of tasks during the four-day event including operating the leader boards, walking scorers and measuring the length of players’ tee shots.
The experience offers a unique insight into one of the region’s biggest and best-loved sporting events. They will get to know the game of golf and crucially gain invaluable experience working within a team – a highly transferable skill they can implement in the future.
Championship organisers are already reporting hundreds of applications from within the UAE and further afield, as golf fans hope to travel from far and wide for a chance to see the world’s best tee off in the UAE capital for the Thursday, January 15 to Sunday, January 18 event.
“Every year we welcome more than 450 volunteers to the Championship,” said Jean Iggo, Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship’s volunteer coordinator.
“It’s a unique opportunity for fans to see the pros up close. Many volunteers even take time off work and travel to participate, flying in from the UK and as far afield as the US.
“This year we have seen applications flood in at a record-breaking rate, both locally and internationally, as it seems the whole world wants to be a part of the Championship’s 10th anniversary event.”
Anyone from 17-years and above can apply for the role, with uniforms and refreshments provided. Volunteers are required to work for a minimum of two days during the tournament.
And Iggo said it will be a worthwhile experience. She said: “It’s ideal if they are familiar with golf and with it being the 10th anniversary of the tournament it will be quite special. It’s for them to come and enjoy the golf and be part of a great event. Every volunteer will have a part to play and will become a team player.
“Some of the volunteers take annual leave from their work just to take part so it speaks volumes of how big and exciting this competition is.”
What: Volunteer at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
Where: Abu Dhabi Golf Club
When: January 15 to 18
Contact: If you are interested in volunteering, visit www.abudhabigolfchampionship.com
Shiv Kapur led a stunning Indian assault on the leaderboard with a second round six-under 66 to claim a share of the lead as a strong contingent of 11 MENA Golf Tour players, spearheaded by Joshua White, made the cut at the DUBAi Open.
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Kapur, who holed his second shot from 190 yards with a six iron for an eagle on his very first hole, joined Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert atop the leaderboard on seven-under, one ahead of the Indian duo of Arjun Atwal and Ganganjeet Bhullar, Simon Yates of Scotland and Wang Jeung-hun of Korea.
England’s White, the reigning MENA Tour champion, followed his opening 71 with a 68, reaching five-under to share seventh place with Daisuke Kataoka of Japan and Prom Meesawat of Thailand.
But Kapur and Tangkamolprasert will be the players to catch as the third round of the Asian Tour’s final event of the year gets underway at The Els Club today.
Kapur said: “I played solid golf out there. Holing your second shot on the first hole is always a great way to start the day. I pretty much just eliminated mistakes on my card. Just one bogey in two rounds shows that.”
Tangkamolprasert had his chance to take the outright lead, but a double-bogey on the 16th undermined his efforts. “I’m very happy with my performance today. I hit good irons creating a lot of birdie chances, but had one bad hole and that wasn’t pleasing,” he said.
Atwal conjured some of his old magic, carding a bogey-free 65, the best score of the tournament thus far.
“It felt really good – like the old days,” said the 41-year-old Atwal, a former Asian Tour No1 and the first Indian winner to play on the PGA Tour. “No mistakes, no bogeys, just solid golf. The course was playing easier than yesterday afternoon – a good score was gettable.”
Crowd favourite Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland was cruising at three-under par but a double bogey on his last for a 71 leaves him six off the pace. Golf in DUBAi ambassador, Matt Fitzpatrick of England, recorded another solid round of a 71 to stay in contention at three-under.
MENA Golf Tour players had a glint in their eyes as they made tremendous gains with 11 out of 24 making it to the weekend. “To be honest, I am not really surprised to see so many MENA Golf Tour players doing well,” said White.
“They are all very good players, even the amateurs that play on the tour are very good. As you can tell from here, there’s not that much difference. But it’s really good to see, and a lot of the Arab players going through as well. The game is progressing in the region, which is really good.”
It’s a tribute to the fighting quality of Morocco’s Younes El Hassani, who played through severe lower back pain and still carded a steady 74, moving into a tie for 46 on level par. “After nine holes, I thought of quitting, but I kept pushing myself and it worked.
“Now that the pressure of making the cut is off I can go all out for top 10 or top 20 over the weekend, I just hope my back holds up,” said El Hassani, one of two Arabs along with amateur compatriot Mehdi Saissi, who have made the cut.
“Whatever the result, the experience of playing in my first Asian Tour event is something which will benefit me in the future,” he said.
The halfway cut was set at 145 with 66 players making it to the weekend. Notables who will not play the weekend are England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who needed a 16th place finish to break into the top-50 in the world, and former Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion David Howell.