England’s Tyrrell Hatton will take a slender lead into the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championship, but major champions Dustin Johnson and Martin Kaymer are in close pursuit among a vast chasing pack.
Hatton birdied four of his last eight holes to card a 68 and finish 13 under par, a shot ahead of a five-strong group including US Open champion Johnson and three-time Abu Dhabi winner Kaymer.
Halfway leader Kaymer could only manage a level-par 72 as Johnson surged through the field with six birdies and an eagle in a flawless 64, with Tommy Fleetwood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Pablo Larrazabal also on 12 under. The top 21 players are separated by just four shots, with Open champion Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren and Lee Westwood among the group on 10 under.
The leading Scots in the field are Marc Warren (71) and Scott Jamieson (68) who, at seven under, are six shots off the pace. David Drysdale (73) and Richie Ramsay (71) are three shots further behind.
Hatton enjoyed the best season of his career last year, recording top-10 finishes in two majors and winning his first European Tour title in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, performances which secured the 25-year-old a Masters debut in April.
“I got off to a bit of a slow start but holed a couple of putts on the back nine and am very happy with the day’s work in the end,” the world No.23 said.
“I didn’t do a whole lot of practice over the winter. I spent most of my time playing Xbox and chilling out at home to be perfectly honest, so it is a little bit of a surprise to see where I’m at this week, but I’m very happy with one round to go.
“Obviously there are big names up there, so I’ve just got to focus on my game and try and play as well as I can. “I love this place. It’s one of my favourite events of the year, so hopefully I can go out there tomorrow and have a good day.”
Johnson, pictured, had faced a battle to make the halfway cut after labouring to an opening 72, but responded with a 68 in the second round and carried on where he left off yesterday.
The world No.3 birdied the first, third and sixth before adding an eagle on the eighth – surprisingly his first under-par score on any of the par fives.His momentum stalled with a run of six straight pars before a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th gave the 32-year-old a superb 64, equalling the lowest score of the week.
“I played a little bit better today,” Johnson said with typical understatement. “The biggest difference was I drove it better, I hit a lot more fairways today and holed a few putts.”