Joachim B Hansen and Francesco Laporta share the lead going into what should be a thrilling final day at the Aviv Dubai Championship on Sunday, with the top nine players separated by four shots.
Both Hansen and Laporta posted 5-under-par 67s around the Fire Course on Saturday, lifting them to 19-under for the tournament and one shot ahead of defending champion Antoine Rozner.
Finland’s Kalle Samooja sits on 17-under, while former European No 1 Tommy Fleetwood and Australia’s Min Woo Lee are one stroke further back. The pair are trailed by three players on 15-under, including two-time major champion Martin Kaymer and recent Ryder Cup rookie Bernd Wiesberger. The Aviv Dubai Championship marks the penultimate stop on this year’s Race to Dubai.
Hansen, ranked 170th in the world and currently 85th on the seasonal standings, is bidding for a second European Tour victory following his win at last season’s Joburg Open.
On Saturday, Hansen carded six birdies and his first bogey of the week, before having some trouble on the par-5 18th, when his approach found the buggy track. He then needed to get up and down from the greenside bunker to go into Sunday at the summit.
“It was very good from tee to green, the best I’ve ever played from tee to green,” Hansen said. “I missed a lot of good chances at the beginning and a few on the back nine. All in all, 5-under is a good score but it could have been a lot better.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow - we’ll see how that’s going to go. Hopefully it will be another beautiful day and we’ll see what happens in the end. I just need to stay patient."
Unlike Hansen, Laporta is searching still for his first win on the tour. The Italian, the world No 211, recorded three birdies on both nines on Saturday – he bogeyed the par-3 11th – including one on the last to keep up with his playing partner.
“It was a good day, a good fight with the other guys,” said Laporta, who currently sits 45th on the Race to Dubai. “It’s obviously the third round, and we were all in contention, so there was more pressure than the other two days, and it was more windy so it was the toughest day of the week.
“My game is pretty good actually. I didn’t hit the irons very solid like the other two days, so we’re going to work on that this afternoon on the range. But I’ll keep everything; my driver is in good shape and my putting is getting better, so I’ll try keep that going tomorrow.”
The winner of last year’s inaugural event, Rozner got his third round off to a brilliant start at Jumeirah Golf Estates. The Frenchman birdied the first and then holed out from the fairway for an eagle on the par-4 3rd. However, a double-bogey on the 5th stalled his momentum before he eventually signed off for a 69.
“Today was tougher, definitely. I did not hit the ball as well as the other days. There were a few mistakes here and there and I didn’t score on the easy holes. In the end it is not a disaster. It is 3-under and I am still in there in the mix and everything is up to tomorrow. I’m in there and that is what I wanted when I started this tournament. I have a chance.”
Meanwhile, Fleetwood traded two bogeys on the front nine for six birdies coming home as he looks to capture a sixth European Tour title. In the end, the 2017 Race to Dubai winner was eight shots better off on the back nine.
“I’m just really happy that I could get something going and play the way I did," Fleetwood said. "Then you go into tomorrow, I can’t do anything about what those guys do. Someone could finish with an eagle, someone could shoot 60 tomorrow, but that’s not my problem.
“All I can do is do what I did on the back nine today and try do that for a full round. But there’s been a lot of good golf in there and I’ve got to take that into tomorrow.”