Shane Lowry leads the charge before final round at Yas Links

Fifteen players are within three shots of lead at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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With 15 players within three shots of the lead before the final round, picking a winner of the 2023 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is a fraught task.

If it was decided by popularity contest, it might be assumed two names among those at the top of the leaderboard would stand out.

Coincidentally, both are from Ireland, and each had enviable support among the packed galleries at Yas Links on Saturday.

Shane Lowry is tied for the lead on 13-under par with Australia’s Min Woo Lee and Italian Francesco Molinari. If he succeeds on Sunday, Lowry will become the first player to win on both the National Course and Yas Links.

The 2019 Abu Dhabi champion carded a 6-under-par 66 in Round 3, which included a lone dropped shot, at the penultimate hole. He revelled in the afternoon breeze, and said he will enjoy the challenge if the wind gusts harder during the final round, too.

“When it's breezy out there, it's very tricky, and I'll be able to deal with that,” Lowry said.

“In the first tournament of the year, you don't know what's going to happen. My thinking would be, I try to give myself as many chances to win as I can, and at some stage, hopefully it happens.

“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.”

Lowry is the highest-ranked player in the field at Yas this week, at No 20 in the world, and would arguably be its most popular winner.

If not him, then his countryman, Padraig Harrington. The 51-year-old would become the oldest player to win on the European Tour if he was to carry off the Falcon Trophy on Sunday.

He will start within two strokes of Lee and Lowry, after a stunning third-round 64. It included six birdies in a row on the back nine, taking him to 11-under for the tournament.

“I think it would mean an awful lot to me to become the oldest winner,” Harrington said.

“If I went and won right now, I actually think it would mean something totally different. It would mean that I am actually competitive.

“If I go and win out of the blue somewhere and steal a win, that's nice. I can put it down on my CV as the oldest winner.

“But if I come into tournaments talking a big game and deliver, that means I'm a player again with the young guys, and it would be other goals I would be seeking out, not just a sort of random sneaky win at my age.”

Lee, who is 27 years Harrington’s junior, had six top 12 finishes in a row on Tour last season, but a win in the capital would be his first in 18 months.

“I've been playing awesome, and those close calls have been someone really playing well,” Lee said.

“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.”

Updated: January 21, 2023, 2:53 PM
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