Paul Casey justified his position as the highest-ranked player in the field on Saturday by moving into a share of the third-round lead at the European Tour’s new Volvo Golf Champions.
Using his power to eagle and birdie the two par 5s on the back nine -- he was on the green in two at both of them -- the world No. 9 shot a 66 to join Sweden’s Peter Hanson on 16 under par.
2011 VOLVO GOLF CHAMPIONS
The European Tour's new Volvo Golf Champions in Bahrain is being played for the first time this week.
Victory for the Englishman could make it four Europeans in the top five on the rankings with Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell currently first, second and fourth.
"It was fun," said Casey. "I had good control of the ball for the first time this week and drove it very nicely. "It was only one shot lower than the first two days, but a lot more comfortable and probably should have been lower." He missed from under six feet on the last.
Casey failed to retain his Ryder Cup spot last year, of course, and went through the season without a win in either Europe or America.
"It's difficult,” he explained. “I'm playing in the best events in the world and I do need to step it up, but I'm not worried about it."
Hanson, one of four halfway leaders, shot a second successive 67 to go with his opening 66 as he and Casey took a one-stroke advantage over Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and South African James Kingston.
An eagle on the ninth for the second day running was the obvious highlight for Hanson. It followed birdies on the two previous holes, and then came a 35-foot putt for another at the 11th.
"I had high expectations in Abu Dhabi last week, but then went down with the flu," he stated. "I still have a bit of a cough, but no fever and I'm very happy how I'm playing. It's going to be a tough day, though, and it's all about trying to make as many birdies as you can."
Clarke led the way after an opening 32, but then reeled off eight pars in a row before boosting his hopes of a 13th European Tour title with a closing 14-foot birdie putt. The 42-year-old is working on a putting tip from Ryder Cup Captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
"It's definitely been an awful lot better,” he said. "Even the ones I miss have been quality strokes, which is a pleasant change. Jose Maria told me it would take a while."
Miguel Angel Jimenez was back with a putter in his bag after breaking one into two pieces during a second-round moment of anger, but it did not do him much good. Jimenez made three birdies using a lob wedge instead on Friday, but from a 65 and a share of the second round he slipped back to fifth spot with a 69.
Round of the day was a course record-equalling 64 from 2004 British Open champion Todd Hamilton. He had made the cut with only a shot to spare and still had five strokes to make up.
Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington went in the opposite direction with 73s -- they are 7 under and 5 under -- and Colin Montgomerie remained 3 under with a 72, but Ian Poulter joined Garcia with a 68.