Late birdie run boosts Bjorn to lead after three rounds at Qatar Masters

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Thomas Bjorn birdied four of the last five holes to finish at 11-under 205.
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PA Sport and Associated Press

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Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn shot a 6-under 66 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the European Tour’s Commercialbank Qatar Masters.

Bjorn birdied four of the last five holes to finish at 11-under 205. He leads overnight leader Markus Brier, who had a 69. Defending champion Robert Karlsson finished with a 69 and trails the leader by two shots. He had five birdies in six holes to finish with a 31 on the back nine.

Martin Kaymer had a 68 and is 10 shots behind Bjorn. He needs a second-place finish to overtake Lee Westwood at the top of the rankings. Westwood missed the cut on Friday.

Bjorn, who shot a 74 on the opening day before coming back with a 65 on Friday, picked up shots at the first and seventh holes. He added a late birdie spree at the Doha Golf Club.

“When you finish a round with four birdies in the last five, you have to walk off very happy,” Bjorn said. “I played fantastic yesterday and felt comfortable this morning.”

Austria’s Brier was even with Bjorn with a hole to play, but sent his drive right. He needed four to reach the green and two-putted for a bogey on the 18th.

“It was a lot of good things, except the par 5s, which I had two bogeys and two pars,” Brier said. “But the rest was really good. Still up there.”

Bjorn, who turns 40 later this month, turned on the style to grab the 54-hole lead. The former Ryder Cup star, who last October was one of Colin Montgomerie's vice-captains at Celtic Manor, had his first victory in four years in Portugal last season.

"I didn't drive the ball particularly well, but I fought well and when I hit the fairways I took my chances,” he said.

Bjorn, who also serves as chairman of the European Tour’s powerful Tournament Committee, started his run with a curling 18-footer at the 14th and finished with three more birdies, pitching over the lake to within three feet of the flag on the last.

Brier, ranked only 478th in the world, was left to rue his bogey 6s on both the ninth and 18th as he handed in a 69. First his approach flew over the green, then he was twice in the dense rough right of the final fairway and had to lay up short of the water with his third shot.

Brier, who did not have a single top-20 finish on the tour last year and had to go back to Q-School in November, is playing on a sponsor's invitation and could yet reignite his career in dramatic fashion. He had birdied the fourth and sixth before his slip at the ninth and picked up more strokes on the 11th, 12th and 16th thanks to a 25-foot putt.

As Kaymer, who needs a top-two finish to go to world No. 1, his 68 lifted him only from 57th to 28th and so Lee Westwood, who missed the cut, looks set to remain the sport's leading man for at least one more week.

South Africa’s Thomas Aiken shot a 69 to trail by four shots. England’s Richard Finch (71) and 2009 champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain (66) are five shots back.

Sergio Garcia's 69 put him alongside Kaymer on 1 under, but Ian Poulter dropped back to one over with a 74 and Americans John Daly and Steve Stricker are down on 2 over and 4 over respectively.

Perhaps the biggest surprises, though, were that Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez, joint runners-up to Bahrain last Sunday, shot 76 and 79 and are bringing up the rear of the field.