Dubai: Jyoti Randhawa on Saturday hit a hattrick of birdies to move to tied second spot after the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
The 34-year-old Indian played 26 holes on Saturday, first completing Friday’s second round, suspended due to inclement weather, with a four-under 68 and then compiled a five-under 67 in the third that moved him to 15-under.
Randhawa, whose sensational hattrick of birdies came on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes, was two strokes behind three-time champions Ernie Els who was at 17-under 199.
Randhawa shares second spot with Dubai-based Swede Henrik Stenson (69) and Ross Fisher, who shot a 71 after two successive 65s.
Tiger Woods is very much in the frame, battling with his putter, but still putting together a 67 that now places him three behind Els.
Woods shot a 67 to trail Els by three strokes, missing putts from as close as five feet. “I didn’t make any putts today. It was frustrating,” Woods said.
“I’ve just struggled all week. The putts that I hit well I misread. And then I’ve hit just atrocious putts and didn’t even come close. I’ve got to clean it up for tomorrow.”
Els whose three-year plan to catch Tiger has been attracting lot of media attention, laughed and said, “I’m up for it. I’d like to win it pretty badly,” Els said.
But he isn’t relaxing, with Woods in contention. “He could get red-hot at any time,” Els said. “Obviously you’ve got to watch the No. 1 player in the world.”
Randhawa goes out in the lead group with Els and Stenson on Sunday, while Fisher gets to play with Woods.
Jeev Milkha Singh was also in the frame at tied 13th with a card of 67 that included four birdies, an eagle two and just one bogey.
Calling it his best in last three weeks, Jeev was at 10-under 206, seven behind Els.
Summing up his third round, Randhawa said, “I finally got my rhythm and I putted well this week so far.
“I just kept doing what I needed to do on the front nine and was even for it. I knew there would be opportunities on the back nine and I needed to be patient.
“And that’s the way it happened with birdies on 10th and 13th. Then the hattrick of birdies at the end was fantastic. I felt great coming off the course.”
Randhawa, six times in top-six of Asian Tour Order of Merit in last eight years, said, “I want to win in Europe and that's my goal this season.”
The desert swing he added was a learning experience.
“In the past, I have often taken a break and come back without too much preparation. It didn't matter that much on Asian Tour.
“But on the European Tour, I learnt my lesson as I missed cuts in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Also here in Dubai I played within myself and did not try any heroics,” he said.
Jeev, who had a spectacular back nine with three birdies and one eagle, also had one bogey on front nine. His only bogey of the day was the seventh.
“There are mixed feelings. I am happy that my game is slowly coming together, but the disappointment is not being able to convert the chances I am creating,” said Jeev.
He is tied with Abu Dhabi Open champion Paul Casey (68), Darren Clarke (68), Ignacio Garrido (68), Miguel Angel Jimenez (71) and Taichi Teshima (68).
Earlier in the day, Jeev finished his second round with last two holes and he managed one birdie in them to make it five-under for 36 holes.
“That birdie put me in a nice frame,” he said
Woods had a frustrating round. On the par-5 third hole, he jacked the ball to the green in two deft shots. But he missed a 60-foot eagle opportunity and then a six-foot putt for birdie, settling for par.
Woods missed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 4th, a 10-footer on the sixth and an 18-footer on the seventh, slashing the air with his putter the last two times.
On the eighth, Woods bogeyed on an eight-foot putt. On the 16th, he missed a five-foot putt for birdie, raising both arms in dismay.
“I turned a 63 into a 67 today,” Woods said.
Niclas Fasth shot the day's best score at 65, ending 13 under.