18 January 2020: Englishman Lee Westwood, a 24-time winner on the European Tour, shot a sparkling 65 (-7) to take a one-shot lead into the final day of the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA. Shubhankar Sharma ended the day in T36, after shooting three-under 69 in the third round.
The highlight of Westwood’s round came on the par-five 8th where he produced a stunning eagle on his way to a sensational front nine 31 (-5). Westwood’s form continued into the back nine, registering three birdies to finish on seven-under-par and heads into the final day one shot ahead of Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Italian Francesco Laporta.
“I played well today. I holed a couple of putts early on which gave me some momentum and then hit a shot into eight, the par 5, with a hybrid to about three feet,” said the delighted Westwood. “I backed it up with a birdie at nine and was on a bit of a roll. I missed a few chances on the back nine but I’m happy with my solid finish. I’m excited about tomorrow – it’s always a bonus to be in contention, which is why we come out here.”
Wiesberger continued his Rolex Series love affair with a majestic bogey-free 65 (-7). The 54-year old Austrian, who is now without a bogey for 38 holes, ended his round in style with three consecutive birdies and will be confident of sealing his third Rolex Series victory having won the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open in 2019. He is joined in second place by the halfway leader, Francesco Laporta, who shot a steady 69 (-3).
“I hit a lot of greens although I struggled a bit on the last. I was really good off the tee for the rest of the round too. I think I hit more fairways today than I did the first two days which helps as I get into position to take on the flags. I actually missed a few easy putts on the back nine but managed to make a few 20-footers to even it out,” said Wiesberger.
European Tour veteran, Sergio Garcia, has been ever-present at the top of the leaderboard this week and showed no signs of slowing down today. A bogey on the 4th hole spurred Garcia into action and he bounced back immediately with an eagle on the par five 8th, having hit a delightful three-wood from the middle of the fairway to ten feet.
The round of the day came from German Sebastian Hiesele who shot an incredible 64 (-8) to charge up the leaderboard on moving day. Hiesele, who was raised in Dubai, used his local knowledge to his advantage to navigate the course with expertise, carding an extraordinary eight birdies and 10 pars.
Amongst the chasing pack is two-time champion and fan-favourite, Tommy Fleetwood who got off to a flyer with four consecutive birdies as he shot an impressive 67 (-5) that included only one dropped shot. Fleetwood sits tied-14th alongside nine other players.
“I always love playing here. I think everybody does because it is such a great way to start the year. The course is great, we get looked after really well and the weather is unbelievable,” said Fleetwood. “I’ve great moments here and some tough ones but it’s always a pleasure to start the year off in Abu Dhabi.”