Dubai World Championship: Alvaro QuirÃ³s maintains lead
Spaniard Alvaro QuirÃ³s will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Dubai World Championship
Alvaro QuirÃ³s has seen his lead cut to two strokes going into the final round of the Dubai World Championship.
At one stage, the Spaniard had a five-shot lead, but an untidy bogey at the last hole has left the tournament wide open.
Luke Donald is only four shots back after a flawless round of 66, effectively thwarting Rory McIlroy’s bid to become the best golfer in Europe.
He is now two shots ahead of the Ulsterman, who himself conceded that the race was over and that only a miraculous turn of events would see Donald surrender the crown.
Scot Paul Lawrie rallied from a disappointing second round to record a brilliant 66, a sublime eagle at the last partly responsible for a homeward nine of 31 and a 12 under par total with one round to go.
2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen is in third place on 11 under par after matching Lawrie’s score of 66, which included an eagle at the par-five seventh.
There is a wealth of talent waiting to pounce should QuirÃ³s struggle going into the final round with a lead.
Two former Ryder Cup stars, in the shape of Peter Hanson and Italian Francesco Molinari, are joined by Irishman Shane Lowry at nine under par.
One stroke further back on eight under par sit a daunting array of world-class golfers and former major winners, including Paul Casey, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, McIlroy, and German Martin Kaymer, who shot the round of the day with a course record equalling 64, holing from a bunker for eagle at the last.
QuirÃ³s was in a typically jovial mood after his round, which offset four bogeys with an eagle and four birdies. He had to take a penalty drop after his drive on the first ended up in a bush, and a poor sand wedge from perfect position on the 18th fairway led to an uncharacteristic bogey on a par-five.
He did, however, produce some magnificent shots and hole some fine putts, none more so than on the par-five seventh; his enormous drive was followed by a majestic three-iron approach to 10 feet, which was duly stroked in for an eagle three.
QuirÃ³s must be nervous ahead of tomorrow, given his record of closing out tournaments with the 54-hole lead and the world class pack waiting to pounce on any erroneous play. He seemed very relaxed, however, and joked: “Hopefully tomorrow they will be in the same position as today: behind me!”
His closest competitor, Lawrie, snuck up the leaderboard and holed a sloping 30-foot putt on the last green to cap off a wonderful display of character and resolve: “All of a sudden I started rolling it in the middle of the hole”.
Oosthuizen had one bogey, one eagle and five bogeys for his round of 66, and is just three shots off the lead.
But the story of the day was undoubtedly Donald’s sumptuous play, and the perceived end to McIlroy’s chances of winning the Race to Dubai.
Donald, in an awesome display of accuracy and putting prowess, carded six birdies and no bogeys to enter the final round alone in fourth place on 10 under par.
He described the round as “very satisfying”, especially with “a lot on the line.” It was “tough emotionally, but I’ve given myself the chance to win.”
Regarding the chance to make history and become the first player in golf to win both the PGA and European Tour money lists, he said: “It’s a tough feat to accomplish, but I’m not going to let my guard down”.
A weary McIlroy conceded defeat after his round: “No, it’s over, he [Donald] deserves it. He’s played great all year and deserves to be number one.”
It was a gracious yet realistic acceptance of defeat from McIlroy, who to his credit, refused to blame his round today on tiredness.
“I’m tired, very tired,” he said. “But I don’t want to say that’s the cause of my playing on the front nine ““ it shouldn’t stop me from going out and playing good golf.”
Martin Kaymer had the round of the day, and proved that he is perhaps the best in the world when everything clicks into place. He came home in 30 and became the third player of the week to match the course record and shoot 64. He knows, however, that he must “do something similar tomorrow”, a sentiment that applies to all those players in single figures under par.
The season-long Race to Dubai might be all but over, but that shouldn’t detract from what is set up to be a thrilling finale to the European Tour season.
For Donald, victory is within reach, but he will have to outplay and outscore a vast array of world class golfers if he wants to win the money list in the most spectacular fashion.