Shane Lowry will bid to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for a second time after grasping a share of the lead on day three at Yas Links Abu Dhabi.
The Irishman posted a six under par round of 66, which included a hole-out eagle at the par four sixth, to reach 13 under par and he is joined on that number by overnight co-leader Francesco Molinari and Australian Min Woo Lee, who also posted a round of 66 on moving day.
In near perfect conditions, Lowry started well in making the turn at five under par but found it trickier to make the putts drop on the back nine, birdieing the 15th before responding to his only dropped shot of the day at the 17th with a closing birdie as he bids for a second Falcon Trophy following his 2019 triumph.
Lee, Lowry and Molinari – all previous Rolex Series winners – will comprise the final group at the season-opening Rolex Series event with the Irishman and the Italian facing off for the second Sunday in succession after they led out their respective teams in the Singles at last week’s Hero Cup.
The leading trio are one stroke clear of Scotland’s Grant Forrest, Frenchman Victor Perez and Sweden’s Sebastian Söderberg, who share fourth on 12 under par and are all chasing their maiden Rolex Series wins.
Three-time Major Champion Pádraig Harrington, who would become the oldest winner in DP World Tour history should he triumph on Sunday, shares seventh place alongside Poland’s Adrian Meronk, Italian Guido Migliozzi and Frenchman Antoine Rozner on 11 under par, two shots off the lead.
Shane Lowry: “I had 162 yards and looked like at the time there wasn't much wind, it was just a nice 8-iron. I was just trying to cut it off the flag but hit it straight at it. Once bouncing in, it was a Brucie Bonus because I had given myself a few chances early doors and didn't really hole much.
“It felt great to be honest, especially at 17. I didn't hit that bad a shot on 17. It just never really moved in the wind. You know, it was one of the only times I was out of position all day, really, so you kind of have to take that.
“It's nice to go out on a Saturday, in tricky conditions coming in on the back nine and to put myself in there for tomorrow is pretty nice.
“First tournament of the year, you don't know what's going to happen. My thing would be I try and give myself as many chances to win as I can, and at some stage, hopefully it happens.
“Tomorrow I've got a chance to go out there and do something special, so hopefully I can bring the game that I brought the last few days and roll a few putts in as well and you never know.”
Min Woo Lee: “It's tricky. The fairways are so thin, some of those holes, it's hard just to make contact. It's a great course. There's a lot of birdies out there but if you miss in the wrong spots there's lots of bogeys. I've been playing really mart and really good. Shaved a few edges today but hopefully those can drop tomorrow.
“I've been playing awesome, and those close calls have been someone really playing well, Jon Rahm in Spain and Adrian. It's one of those where you do the right things but someone else pips you.
“Hopefully I can be that guy tomorrow but I'm just enjoying it and having fun. Yeah, last year was a bit of a downfall just before that big run. So it was nice to get some form, and hopefully I can have a nice year this year.”
Francesco Molinari: “It was a bit scruffy, I think I left a couple of shots out there on the front nine and then on the back nine it got trickier, obviously the wind got up. I am pretty happy with what I have done, it wasn’t an easy day, and obviously nice to finish with a birdie at the last.
“Yeah, definitely it is going to be a sort of shootout tomorrow, so there are loads of guys with a chance, so we will see. If the wind gets up, obviously the course plays trickier, so you might get someone shooting a low score in the morning and posting a low score. So, I think an exciting day in store for the viewers, maybe not so much for us, but it will be a fight, so it is nice at least to position myself with a chance going into tomorrow.
“It would be amazing. I never won the first tournament in my, you know starting my season, so it would be a new experience for me and there is no better place to do it, on a wonderful course like this week and obviously a great tournament, a great purse. So I will do my best, there are obviously quite a few other guys with the same idea.”