Defending champion Martin Kaymer extended his lead at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship to five strokes over Rory McIlroy after shooting a 6-under 66 in the third round on Saturday.
Kaymer, the 2010 PGA Championship winner, birdied three of his last four holes to total 18-under 198 at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
2011 ABU DHABI HSBC CHAMPIONSHIP
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship kicks off the European Tour's three-event 'Middle East Swing' that also includes Dubai and Qatar.
“The great thing is I’ve made only one bogey so far, and that was the first day,” Kaymer said. “I played very consistently. I’ve made a lot of birdies the last three days.”
McIlroy finished birdie-eagle for a 65 to move into second place in the first stop of the European Tour’s three-week Middle East Swing.
David Lynn of England (67) is at 204, two strokes ahead of Race to Dubai leader Charl Schwartzel of South Africa (71) and Alexander Noren of Sweden (67).
U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell struggled with putting and finished with a 71. Paul Casey of England (67) made a hole-in-one at the 12th.
Four-time major winner Phil Mickelson was 3 under at the turn, only to make four bogeys on the back nine. He shot a 72 and trails the leader by 15 strokes. Top-ranked Lee Westwood had a 73 and is tied for 65th.
Kaymer beat McIlroy by two shots in last year’s tournament, and the Northern Irishman is aware he faces a challenge on Sunday.
“Kaymer is very, very good on this golf course,” McIlroy said. “He’s always good when leading from the front as well, so I’m going to have a difficult time to try and catch him.”
Not even that birdie-eagle finish from McIlroy could put Kaymer off his stride as he closed in on a third Abu Dhabi Championship in four years with birdies on those same two holes. Kaymer, last season's European Tour leading money-winner, is now poised to replace Tiger Woods as world No. 2.
The 26-year-old has had only one bogey in his last 79 holes on the course, a simply staggering statistic that goes back to the 11th hole of his third round last year. And McIlroy is not expecting the German to come off the rails all of a sudden.
"Martin is a very good leader," he said. "He does not lose many tournaments from the position he is in. "If I give myself enough opportunities, as I did today, I am sure there's a low score out there and hopefully I will go close. But Martin is playing very, very well."
Kaymer, who was also runner-up two years ago, is now 74 under par for his last 15 rounds at the venue. Needing only a top-7 finish to move ahead of Woods in the rankings, he also had birdies at the third, fifth, 11th and 15th.
"My driving didn't feel so good, but I managed to hit the greens, my putting feels good and 66 is a fantastic round,” said Kaymer. "Now I expect myself to win and I'd like to win by as many as possible. I rarely shoot over 70 on the course (just once in 15 rounds) and that's my goal."