Shane Lowry takes a three shot lead into final day in Abu Dhabi

Offalyman battled hard to maintain his lead as he goes in search of first win since 2015

 

Shane Lowry took a tighter grip on his quest to claim the Abu Dhabi Championship - firing a third round 67 for a 54-holes total of 17-under-par 199 for a three stroke lead over South African Richard Sterne heading into the final round - but the 31-year-old Offaly man sought to keep his mind very much on the task ahead.

With a stronger wind forecast for Saturday’s final round, Lowry, still with unfinished business to complete, remarked: “I need to go out and play my own game and stay aggressive and see what the lads behind me can do. You know, it’s the same old clichés. One shot at a time, and try to not get ahead of myself and just enjoy the day and enjoy the position I’m in.”

Lowry - without a win on tour since his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational success in 2015 - has used his iron play and putting especially to great effect in the opening three rounds, establishing a three shot lead over Sterne with Ian Poulter a further two shots adrift.

His play of the Par 3s, in particular, has been quite outstanding with nine birdies over the three rounds. Although he suffered a bogey on the short fourth hole in the third round, after a tee-shot that airmailed the green and finished in a large greenside bunker, Lowry’s response was to birdie the remaining Par 3s - the seventh, 12th and 15th - in a round which included seven birdies and two bogeys. “I just started laughing when I birdied 15,” he quipped.

Lowry, currently 75th in the world rankings, could jump as high as 40th if he were to win, which would bring with it a likely invitation to the US Masters (the top-50 in the world at the end of March get into the field) and also earn him a place in The Players Championship at Sawgrass in March.

“We’re in a world-class field here this week so I know they are going to come out firing. So I need to stay aggressive and try to make as many birdies as I can and see where that leaves me on the 18th green. I am just trying to go out (in the final round) and do what I’ve been doing. I’ve been hitting some lovely iron shots. It just so happens that I’ve hit them on the par 3s and holed a few putts. It just shows when I get myself in position, I can give myself chances and that’s kind of what I need to do.

“So I think I just need to go out and stay aggressive and just play my own game and try and make as many birdies as I can. That’s the way I play golf. If I can do that, hopefully I can be up there at the end of the day and give myself a chance coming down the last few,” said Lowry, who bounced back from a bogey on the 16th - where he was in bunker trouble - with a closing birdie on the 18th, two putting from the fringe of the green on the Par 5.

Lowry is a three-time winner on tour, breaking through as an amateur at the Irish Open in 2009 and claiming his first win as a professional at the Portugal Masters in 2012 before securing his biggest career win at the WGC in Akron. He held a four shot lead going into the final round of the US Open in 2016, only to finish runner-up to Dustin Johnson.

With a three shot cushion over Sterne and five over next-nearest challenger Poulter, Lowry was keen to stay focused: “I’m not going to say I feel invincible because we all know that this game is not easy, and it can jump up and bite you when you least expect it. So I’m just trying to go out (in the final round) and do what I’ve been doing.”

Collated third round scores in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Abu Dhabi GC, United Arab Emirates (Britain unless stated, Irish in bold, par 72):

199 Shane Lowry 62 70 67

202 Richard Sterne (Rsa) 65 68 69

204 Ian Poulter 66 69 69

205 Pablo Larrazabal (Spa) 65 72 68

206 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 66 69 71, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 68 71 67, Scott Jamieson 69 66 71, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 67 70 69

207 Brooks Koepka (USA) 67 70 70, Paul Waring 70 67 70, Lee Westwood 66 68 73

208 Dominic Foos (Ger) 68 68 72, Joost Luiten (Ned) 69 68 71, David Horsey 71 66 71, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 65 68 75, Grant Forrest 71 65 72, Jordan Smith 72 66 70, Benjamin Hebert (Fra) 68 71 69

209 Adri Arnaus (Spa) 69 68 72, Matt Wallace 70 68 71, Alexander Bjork (Swe) 66 71 72, Ryan Fox (Nzl) 69 70 70, Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) 70 70 69, Gavin Green (Mal) 69 67 73

210 Jack Singh Brar 69 68 73, Branden Grace (Rsa) 70 69 71, Darren Fichardt (Rsa) 73 68 69, Matthias Schwab (Aut) 70 68 72, Tom Lewis 68 67 75, Thomas Bjorn (Den) 70 71 69, David Lipsky (USA) 68 73 69, Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry) 67 73 70, Eddie Pepperell 70 68 72

211 Jason Scrivener (Aus) 72 65 74, Andy Sullivan 69 72 70, Justin Walters (Rsa) 70 69 72, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 70 68 73, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa) 68 71 72, Sam Brazel (Aus) 70 69 72

212 Callum Shinkwin 71 68 73, Jorge Campillo (Spa) 71 69 72, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 66 72 74, Matthew Southgate 70 71 71, Alvaro Quiros (Spa) 72 69 71, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 71 70 71, Dustin Johnson (USA) 69 71 72, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 71 65 76, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa) 70 69 73, Bradley Dredge 70 68 74

213 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 71 70 72, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 69 72 72, James Morrison 69 69 75, Renato Paratore (Ita) 71 70 72, Dean Burmester (Rsa) 71 69 73, Tommy Fleetwood 69 72 72, Andres Romero (Arg) 70 70 73, Robert Macintyre 70 71 72

214 Richie Ramsay 70 70 74, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 65 76 73, Ross Fisher 69 72 73, Aaron Rai 68 70 76, Joachim B. Hansen (Den) 69 71 74, Scott Hend (Aus) 71 68 75, Sam Horsfield 69 71 74, Alexander Levy (Fra) 69 71 74, Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 71 68 75

215 Thomas Detry (Bel) 72 67 76

216 Kurt Kitayama (USA) 72 69 75, Victor Perez (Fra) 75 66 75

218 Nino Bertasio (Ita) 69 70 79

220 Zander Lombard (Rsa) 70 70 80

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