With the two biggest stars missing the cut in Round 2, the 2013 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship didn't have the normal flair or flash it usually does from the sport's most recognized athletes.
Thanks to Justin Rose, that didn't matter in Round 3.
Rose continued to look like a golfer that could be in the major title mix this season, increasing his lead by two over the next closest golfer and staying under the 70 stroke mark for the third consecutive day. He'll enter the final grouping as the favorite to take home the trophy, and grab some major momentum for the rest of the 2013 season.
Much was made about two early exits on Friday—both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy missed the two-over cut and were sent home. Woods made a late push and appeared to get under that mark by end, but a two-stroke penalty was accrued when Tiger was pinged for an illegal drop after his ball was embedded in the sand under a patch of weeds.
McIlroy shot two rounds of 75, still working on adjusting to the new Nike clubs provided by the high-profile sponsor.
Those two weren't around on Saturday, but Rose certainly was, pocketing seven birdies on the afternoon after a three-putt bogey on the first hole. Behind him, Jamie Donaldson and Thorbjørn Olesen still sit tied for second and remain within striking distance on the final day.
Here's a complete look at the leaderboard, and some analysis from this third round of the European Tour event.
Note: Leaderboard and statistics courtesy of EuropeanTour.com
|T5||Richie Ramsay ||-8||73||68||67||208|
|T5||David Howell ||-8||69||71||68||208|
|T5||Gonzalo Fdez-Castano ||-8||70||67||71||208|
|T8||Andrew Dodt ||-7||74||70||65||209|
|T8||Ricardo Santos ||-7||71||72||66||209|
|T8||Michael Campbell ||-7||69||71||69||209|
|T11||Martin Kaymer ||-6||71||69||70 ||210|
Rose had an up-and-down day on the course, but managed to use his five-birdie front nine to carry him down the stretch. In addition to his seven birdies, he also added three bogeys, but still managed to increase his lead over second place.
Donaldson and Olesen—the highest-standing golfer under the Nike brand still remaining—both shot 69 and stayed within striking distance of Rose for Sunday's finale. Donaldson also felt the weight of a bad lie on Saturday, as provided by this SI Golf picture on Twitter:
Today in Abu Dhabi, Jamie Donaldson had a lie every golfer dreads ... twitter.com/si_golf/status…— SI Golf Group (@si_golf) January 19, 2013
Donaldson managed to save par on that dreadful lie on the eighth hole, and had a solid round of four birdies to just one bogey. As expected with the absence of the world No. 1 and 2 from the field, it was the golfers you might not have ever heard about that had the best day at Abu Dhabi.
Thongchai Jaidee, third last weekend at the Volvo Golf Champions, made a strong push after a slow start. He would post the second-best score, 66, on the day and will start Sunday's grouping just three shots back of Rose.
Elsewhere, Michael Campbell, David Howell and Martin Kaymer stayed in the mix after quality Saturday rounds, while Andrew Dodt shot 65 to post the lowest mark of the day and jump into the Top 10 of the leaderboard in the process.
2012 Ryder Cup participants Peter Hanson and Jason Dufner were at it again on Saturday, but Hanson posted a huge 10-birdie day to finish at five-under while Dufner remained at even par and sits tied for 19th. Garth Mulroy had the biggest drop of the day, falling out of the Top 10 all the way to 29th after he posted a three-over 75.
There's one more day left in Abu Dhabi before the golfers pack it up and head to other frontiers, but you can bet they've enjoyed their time at the course, as reported by ESPN's Darren Rovell:
darren rovell (@darrenrovell) January 18, 2013
It won't be easy leaving that clubhouse behind, but Sunday will mark Round 4 and the end of this year's 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championships. Be sure and check back for complete Round 4 coverage and analysis following the completion of the event.
Note: For complete highlights of the action and golfers in Round 3, check out EuropeanTour.com.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Check him out on Twitter.