Purcell heads the Irish trio as Nienaber takes control at UAE Challenge

Mark McGowan

Conor Purcell (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Conor Purcell fired a third-round three-under 69 to leapfrog Dermot McElroy and he goes into the final round five back at the UAE Challenge.

The Portmarnock man birdied three of his opening nine holes to make his way to the head of the trio of Irish who’d made the cut, but the back nine at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club has proven difficult all week and though he’d add another three birdies on the way home, three bogeys offset these and he’d end the day on -7 overall, five strokes back.

Gary Hurley, who’d shown brilliant resolve to get himself back the right side of the cutline on day two, again finished strongly, recovering from back-to-back bogeys on one and two – his 10th and 11th – to card four birdies in his final five holes and sign for the same score as Purcell, which lifted the Waterford man into 24th place overall.

McElroy, who’d started the day just four back, covered the opening 11 in one-under thanks to three birdies and two bogeys, but the tough closing stretch claimed another victim as he bogeyed four of his final seven holes to slip back to -4 overall.

Wilco Nienaber will take a two-stroke lead into the final round after carding a three under par round of 69.

The South African reached 12 under par by posting seven birdies and four bogeys in an eventful round that leaves him two shots clear of Swiss Benjamin Rusch and Englishmen Pavan Sagoo and David Horsey.

Despite carding three bogeys on the back nine, the 24-year-old was pleased with his efforts on a sweltering day in Abu Dhabi.

“Today was pretty good,” he said. “I had a couple of iffy shots but all in all, very pleased. The execution wasn’t quite there today, but it wasn’t far off. Most of it was pretty good.

“The wind angles were a little different, but it didn’t really cool us off. From that perspective it didn’t help.”

Nienaber, who led the DP World Tour in average driving distance last year, highlighted his long game as a key advantage over the first three days in Abu Dhabi.

“Length always helps if you hit it good,” he said. “There are definitely a few holes where bunkers aren’t in play for me.

“That said, you still have to hit a good tee shot to be in position and hole putts.”

It will be the second time in as many weeks that Nienaber sits in pole position after 54 holes, having been part of a leading trio at last week’s Abu Dhabi Challenge. The South African was unable to take advantage at Al Ain but is feeling relaxed ahead of tomorrow’s final round.

“It’s just another round,” he said. “It’s just wake up, same thing, 45 minutes before, hit a few balls and off we go.

“This is my fourth Sunday in a row that I’m going in with a chance to win the tournament, it’s not quite worked out but that is just the way the game is. Hopefully tomorrow I feel more comfortable.”

Spaniard Angel Ayora carded the low round of the day with a seven under 65 and shares fifth place at nine under par with Frenchman Gary Stal, Finn Tapio Pulkkanen, Australia’s Connor McKinney and Dane Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen, while Iceland’s Haraldur Magnus, Swede Kristoffer Broberg and Denmark’s Hamish Brown share tenth a further shot back.

The final round gets under way at 7:30am local time, with Nienaber, Horsey and Sagoo teeing off at 9:30am.


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