ENGLAND’S Chris Wood will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Qatar Masters hoping to end a five-year search for his first victory on the European Tour.
The 25-year-old looked set to have a promising career when in 2008, while still an amateur, he finish tied for fifth place behind Padraig Harrington in the Open at Royal Birkdale. Since then his progress has been hampered by a series of back complaints caused by the wide swing arc his 6ft 5in tall frame creates.
In 2012 he did record his first professional victory in the 2012 Thailand Open on the Asian Tour but then the injury returned. “Two or three weeks after I won. I had to withdraw from a couple of events as my back went,” he said after reaching 15 under par yesterday.
“All of a sudden from going on a bit of a high after winning a tournament I had to pick myself up and start again. The confidence seemed to be shortlived then but I hope fully I can look back on that win and it will help me in the final round.”
Wood was two shots off the lead at the start of the day but worked his way to the top of the leaderboard with five birdies in his first eight holes and an eagle at the par five tenth in a round of 64.
For most of the third round his nearest challenger was Spain’s Sergio Garcia but he dropped back four shots off the pace after finishing his 70 with a bogey after finding water by the 18th green.
In a three-way tie for second place are New Zealander Michael Campbell, another Englishman Simon Khan and Sweden’s Alexander Noren. Khan began five shots off the lead but sunk six birdies in his first seven holes on his way to a round of 64. He followed up with two more on the closing nine but felt he could have done even better. “I was leading after eight holes,” he said. “But then I did the classic. I got a little bit ahead of myself and started thinking ahead. It would have been nice to have finished a little better but I was delighted with the front nine.”
In California, meanwhile, not even two bogeys in his last four holes could spoil Tiger Woods’ day at the Farmers Insurance Open, the six-times champion declaring himself happy with an opening four-under-par 68.
Back at one of his favourite venues, the former world No 1 thrilled the huge galleries watching his every move as he got to six under with a storming seven-under run from the fifth to the 13th before ending the day three strokes off the pace. Significantly, Woods had started out on the more difficult South Course and he was aiming to make much greater inroads when he tackled the more vulnerable North layout in last night’s second round.
“I am (happy),” the 14-times major winner said after a round that included six birdies, an eagle at the sixth, two bogeys and a double-bogey at the fourth left him three shots behind fellow American Brandt Snedeker and South Korean KJ Choi. “After being one under and then one over, to battle back and get to six at one point was a good job.”
201 Chris Wood 67 70 64
204 Michael Campbell (Nzl) 68 68 68, Alexander Noren (Swe) 71 67 66, Simon Khan 67 73 64
205 Sergio Garcia (Spa) 69 66 70, Branden Grace (Rsa) 70 68 67
206 Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 68 68 70, Jbe Kruger (Rsa) 70 68 68, George Coetzee (Rsa) 69 67 70, Marcus Fraser (Aus) 68 67 71
207 Gary Lockerbie 67 69 71, Anthony Wall 66 71 70, Steve Webster 69 71 67, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 68 67 72
Others. 208 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 71 69 68, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 69 69. 210 Paul Casey 70 68 72, Justin Rose 68 71 71. 211 Peter Whiteford 66 73 72, Tommy Fleetwood 72 71 68. 212 Stephen Gallacher 72 71 69. 214 David Drysdale 72 71 71. 215 Craig Lee 72 69 74 Scott Henry 69 74 72. 216 Christopher Doak 72 71 73. 217 Ernie Els (Rsa) 72 71 74.