Henrik Stenson drew strength from adversity to deliver a masterclass and take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. The Swede shot a course-record 62 to leave himself at 16 under par. It was a round that included a run of five straight birdies at the start and was gilded by a pair of sublime eagles.
It was the big hitter's lowest score on the European Tour and he needed it, given the pressure exerted by the American world No 11 Chris DiMarco and Miguel Angel Jimenez, of Spain.
Stenson revealed he had been fighting a bug and has also been troubled by a niggle in his back, hindering his preparations. "Maybe I should keep this bug," he smiled. "It's been a bit of a funny week. I pulled my back on Sunday practising in Dubai, so I've been having treatment for a couple of days. And then for the last couple of days I had a bit of a stomach complaint so I wasn't feeling at all well and it was a struggle on Friday.
"I was tired coming up the last couple of holes on Friday but I managed to finish birdie, birdie. And then I shoot this score today." After his eagle at the 10th, Stenson could not replicate his front-nine form coming back and it looked as if he would have to settle for a share of the lead until he pulled off his second eagle, putting from just four feet at the par-five 18th.
He would have shared the lead with DiMarco, who parred the last for a round of 63 that began with a double-bogeybut developed into a birdie-sinking display. Nine were recorded, as well as an eagle at the 10th, and the 37-year-old saluted the work of his stand-in caddie, his wife Amy.
"When I made the double on the first hole, she said, 'OK it's over, let's just go from there'," he said. "I feel like I slow down a lot more with her, which is great, because my biggest problem is that I get too fast. I went out and continued hitting great shots and I'm very excited with what I shot."
Jimenez ended the day a shot further back at 14 under and despite putting eight birdies, and registering no bogeys, he was unhappy that he failed to take more of his opportunities. He said: "I missed two chances for birdies on the last two holes which if I had holed them I would have been right up there with the leader. I put a few shots close to the hole but didn't make them at all, which was a little frustrating. But it was still a good round. Overall, I am very happy at the way I am hitting the ball and this is pretty good having been away from golf for about five or six weeks."
Of the other big guns, who had got lost in the pack when the wind blew in the first two rounds, Colin Montgomerie exceeded his expectations in shooting a 65. It was the same score carded by Sergio Garcia, who, at 12 under, is a shot clear of the Scot and within touching distance of the leaders. Poor putting accounted for Vijay Singh's 69 and he is seven adrift of Stenson.
Justin Rose's bid for a Ryder Cup place has began in earnest, with an eight-under-par 64 in the third round at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in California. It pulled him up from 47th place to joint seventh, with two rounds to play. The 25-year-old has rejoined the European Tour and is eligible for the Ryder Cup again as a result but will continue to play mostly in America.Reuse content