Sergio Garcia goes three clear of Henrik Stenson in Dubai
Spanish star birdies the 18th in the dark to stretch clear of his Ryder Cup team-mate
Sergio Garcia is three shots clear going into the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic. Photograph: Getty/ David Cannon
Garcia carded a third round of 68 at Emirates Golf Club to finish 16 under par at the end of a day which had started at 7:30am local time and finished well after sunset.
Play had been suspended on Friday afternoon after several trees were blown over by strong winds and those players who had not managed to complete their rounds returned on day three to far more favourable conditions.
Garcia resumed on the sixth hole and reeled off three straight birdies on his way to a 67 and a three-shot halfway lead, which the 37-year-old Spaniard managed to maintain in dramatic fashion.
Having started the back nine of round three with three birdies in four holes to move four shots clear, Garcia three-putted the 15th before driving the green on the short 17th to set up a birdie and holing from eight feet for another on the last.
Asked if it had been risky to finish as darkness quickly descended, Garcia told Sky Sports: “Maybe a little bit.
“We all looked at each other on 17 and we didn’t want to come here (on Sunday) for just two or three shots and have to wake up so early again.
“I didn’t think it was going to get dark that quickly but I guess it proved the right thing because our group finished eagle-birdie-birdie, so that’s pretty cool.
“I felt like I hit a lot of quality shots, lots of good bunker shots and chips. Unfortunately a couple of bad putts here and there, but other than that I felt very comfortable all week.
“I just need to keep doing more of the same (on Sunday), believing in myself and what I’m doing and if I manage to do that hopefully I will be here with the trophy.”
Stenson carded a 67 to finish 13 under, although the European number one could be left to rue missing short birdie chances on the 16th and 17th.
“I’m pleased,” the British Open champion said. “It was not pretty early on. I was kind of everywhere on the third and fourth but got back into it, steadied the ship and played a pretty solid back nine.
“I had a lot of chances so it could have been one or two better, but very pleased to finish and sneak that one in on the last – it was hard to get the pace right on the first putt in the dark.
“We were rushing a little on 17 to get up on 18. It’s a big advantage to finish and not to have to come back out tomorrow to play half a hole or something. We wanted to get it done, but at the same time you don’t want to lose shots making that happen.
“It’s important to try and keep the pressure on Sergio (on Sunday) and if I can get one or two back on the front nine it could be really interesting on the back nine.”
England’s Ian Poulter and Thailand’s Prom Meesawat are five shots off the pace after rounds of 67 and 68 respectively, with American Peter Uihlein and South Africa’s George Coetzee another stroke back.
Graeme McDowell carded a four-under 68 in his third round to move to eight under and a share of 11th position alongside Australian amateur Curtis Luck.
Paul Dunne carded an eagle and three birdies in his third round, but five bogeys saw the Greystones golfer sign for a level-par 72 to remain on one over par.