Saturday, January 20, 2018

Fisher and Pieters share third-round lead 

at Abu Dhabi

On a day of incredible scoring at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters forced their way into a share of the lead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship – one shot clear of Rory McIlroy heading into the final round.
Respective scores of 65 and 67 took Fisher and Pieters to 17 under par 199, while McIlroy carded his own 65 to move into third place in his first competitive tournament in over 100 days after a well-publicised break from the game.
McIlroy may not be fully match-fit, having had so much time away from competing at the highest level, but the sharpness of his ball-striking and the efficiency of his overall game will certainly have caught the attention of anyone who has followed the Northern Irishman’s career.
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood has a fantastic opportunity to emulate Martin Kaymer and record back-to-back Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship victories after the Englishman posted a third- round 67 to move to 15 under 201 alongside countryman Matt Fitzpatrick heading into the final day.
Fitzpatrick produced a quite stunning third-round performance, birdieing seven of his first nine holes to get to the turn in 29. Another two birdies – on the tenth and 11th holes – had the 23 year old thinking he could shoot the European Tour’s first 59, but in the end he settled for the lowest round of the week so far, a nine under 63 which saw him join Fleetwood on 15 under 201 
While McIlroy is reaping the benefits of his enforced period of rest, Pieters, Fisher, Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick are certainly benefiting from starting their seasons early at last week's EurAsia Cup. 
Player quotes
Ross Fisher: “It was another good day. It was obviously great fun getting out with Thomas for the third day in a row. A lot of fun, a lot of banter. I was just trying to hang on to him, and I felt like I played solid. Conditions got very windy and 17 and 18 were playing very tough.
“I’m very excited about having a chance to win the first event for me on The European Tour season. It is such a prestigious event here in Abu Dhabi. You only have to walk up 18 and see the list of past champions. 
"So, to go out there tomorrow and have a chance of putting my name amongst that illustrious group of players would be great. I have to go out and play as well as I have done the first three days. I'm excited and looking forward to the challenge.”

Thomas Pieters: “I think I played pretty well today. I missed a lot of putts. I made a couple birdies early, which settled me down. The back nine, I played very well. But I couldn't really make a putt. I hit one really close on 16 and 17, 18 were pretty disappointing. I didn't hit many good shots there but it's still nice to make a par on the last after the mess I made.”
Rory McIlroy: “It would mean a lot to win. I've had a lot of close calls here, I think about six top threes or something like that. I've never won on my first start back out. I was close last year in South Africa, but Stormy beat me in a play-off. So it would mean a lot. "It's felt like a while since I've won. I gave myself a chance at the end of the year at Close House and wasn't able to do it. Paul Dunne played too well for me. I'm excited to get back on the horse and give myself another chance tomorrow.
“I said all week, I felt like this is where my game was in practice, but it's always different trying to go from the range on to the golf course, and even in practice rounds.  I felt like I was playing well but it's still different whenever you get a card in your hand and you're in competitive play.”
Matt Fitzpatrick: “You're always thinking, 59, you really are. It's difficult not to. Even though I wasn't playing great, I knew how well I was putting and I felt if I could just give myself those chances on the greens, I could make the putts, basically.
“So I didn't feel it would take much to just pick up a few more birdies. I only needed four. I knew 18 was obviously reachable and then a couple of those, you just get it nearby the hole and you sort of try and take your chance. But you know, it's so difficult. DJ shot eight-under yesterday and apparently it was the easiest eight-under the guys have ever seen, but mine was I little bit different story, probably the most difficult. 
"At the end of the day, the game is all about scoring, and obviously I've scored ridiculously well today. That's what's nice. I'm back in the tournament and it's something at the start of the year that I wanted to do is contend more.”

Tommy Fleetwood: “
So far, so good. I’m in a really good place, and a couple of the guys played some unbelievable golf, and you can't do anything about that. But for me, it's been a really solid week so far. I’m happy with my game and that's just what I've got to go out and do tomorrow. Go out with the same attitude and hopefully I'll swing it the same and have a lot more chances and we'll see what happens.
For me, I played great today. I'm going to take that into tomorrow, and it would be very satisfying to go back-to-back.”
Round three scores
par 216 (3x72)

199 R Fisher (Eng) 67 67 65, T Pieters  (Belgium) 67 65 67
200 R McIlroy  (N Ireland) 69 66 65
201 M Fitzpatrick  (Eng) 68 70 63, T Fleetwood  (Eng) 66 68 67
202 T Detry  (Belgium) 70 68 64, A Johnston (Eng) 68 68 66, C Paisley  (Eng) 69 67 66
203 D Frittelli (SAf) 69 67 67, P Dunne (Ireland) 68 70 65, B Grace  (SAf) 72 64 67
204 B Wiesberger  (Austria) 67 68 69, A Levy (Fra) 69 65 70, D Johnson (USA) 72 64 68, F Zanotti (Paraguay) 67 69 68, P Casey  (Eng) 70 65 69
205 J Wang (SKor) 71 67 67, J Campillo (Spn) 69 64 72, S Brazel (Australia) 67 68 70,
207 R Sterne  (SAf) 68 72 67
208 M Kaymer (Ger) 69 68 71, T Hatton (Eng) 69 70 69, D Burmester (SAf) 69 72 67, K Aphibarnrat (Thailand) 70 70 68, H Stenson (Swe) 70 68 70, K Broberg (Swe) 69 69 70, R Fox (NZ) 70 66 72, J Scrivener (Australia) 69 68 71, A Sullivan (Eng) 70 65 73
209 B Stone (SAf) 69 70 70, M Ilonen  (Finland) 68 74 67, S Han (USA) 73 67 69, J Luiten (Netherlands) 69 68 72, S Gallacher (Sco) 68 72 69, S Hend (Australia) 71 69 69, J Rose (Eng) 71 71 67, B Hebert  (Fra) 72 68 69, M Korhonen (Finland) 73 68 68
210 N Colsaerts  (Belgium) 69 70 71, N Bertasio (Ita) 70 71 69, L Slattery (Eng) 69 72 69, W Ashun (China) 71 67 72, R Ramsay  (Sco) 68 70 72
211 L Jensen (Denmark) 70 71 70, J Smith (Eng) 72 70 69, D Fichardt (SAf) 73 67 71, M Kuchar  (USA) 72 70 69, T Bjørn (Denmark) 73 69 69, G Havret  (Fra) 70 71 70, S Sharma (India) 71 70 70, B An (SKor) 71 70 70, M Wallace (Eng) 71 68 72, R Karlsson (Swe) 71 70 70, M Lorenzo-Vera  (Fra) 71 71 69, J Lagergren (Swe) 69 73 69, M Manassero (Ita) 70 71 70, R Gouveia (Portugal) 72 70 69, C Pigem  (Spn) 68 71 72
212 S Vincent (Zim) 69 70 73, H Tanihara (Jpn) 66 72 74, A Otaegui  (Spn) 70 69 73
213 A Cañizares  (Spn) 71 71 71, A Quiros  (Spn) 70 72 71, J Kruyswijk (SAf) 75 67 71, H Porteous SAf) 72 70 71, T Olesen (Denmark) 69 73 71, G Bourdy (Fra) 71 70 72,214 S Kjeldsen (Denmark) 72 70 72, L Bjerregaard  (Denmarl) 72 69 73,215 R Cabrera Bello (Spn) 72 70 73, G Stal  (Fra) 72 69 74



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