A stunning display of ball-striking has earned West Australian Min Woo Lee a share of the lead through three rounds of the DP World Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi.
Lee (66) is tied with Major champions Shane Lowry (66) and Francesco Molinari (69) at 13-under par at Yas Links on a day in which he didn’t have to make a putt from outside four feet for any of his seven birdies.
A two-time winner on the DP World Tour, the 24-year-old very nearly had a hole-in-one on the par-3 fourth as off-season work with coach Ritchie Smith paid immediate dividends.
“It was very solid. The off-season work with my coach and my team is kind of starting to show,” said Lee. “I didn’t think it was going to start this quick.
“My approach play is one of my downfalls I’ve had over the last couple of years, so I needed to get better at that and change my swing a little bit.
“So it’s happy times and hopefully tomorrow is another good round.”
All told Lee made his seven birdies with just 16 feet of putts, the first coming from one foot, seven inches at the par-5 second.
His near ace at four left a birdie putt of one foot, three inches and he turned in two-under courtesy of a birdie from three feet, seven inches at the par-5 seventh.
A drive of 330 yards at the par-4 10th set up a birdie from two feet, seven inches which he followed with a birdie from seven feet at the par-5 11th.
He converted from three feet, three inches at the par-4 14th and then joined Lowry and Molinari on top of the leaderboard with a final birdie from three feet, two inches at the par-5 18th.
Fellow Australian Jason Scrivener dropped into a share of 16th with a third round of even-par 72 while a double bogey at the final hole was a tough way for New Zealander Ryan Fox to end his round of seven-over 79.
With one round of the 90-hole marathon to play, the Australian flag is also flying high at Final Stage of Asian Tour Qualifying School in Thailand.
Sydney’s John Lyras (66) and South Australian Jack Thompson (64) are tied at the top at Lake View Resort and Golf Club at 17-under.
Ten Aussies and three Kiwis survived the second cut following the fourth round, 77 players now left to fight it out over 18 holes for 35 2023 Asian Tour cards.
“I just played really solid. Hit the ball well, putted really well. Yeah, just almost a perfect day,” said Thompson, the 2021 Gippsland Super 6 champion.
“No bogeys, it was good, felt nice. I bogeyed the last hole yesterday, so I made sure I didn’t do that.
“My putting has been a big thing. Everyone sort of hits good shots and stuff, but I think you still got to get the ball in the hole, and I putted really well.
“After the first nine holes I sort of changed things up, so I think just putting really. Just got to keep going. Keep trying to get as low as I can get and keep going.”
His unblemished scorecard showed seven birdies and no dropped shots.
Lyras took the more adventurous route making an eagle, six birdies, one double bogey and a bogey.
“Yes a bit of everything, a bit of frustration, plenty of frustration,” Lyras admitted.
“It was pretty tricky with the wind and just had to keep hitting good shots out there. Just trying to drive the ball as well as I can out there this week, and it’s helping a lot so far.
“Just need to go out and do more of the same. I really would like to finish this tournament off in a really good fashion and try and get the most out of my round tomorrow would be the goal.
“I feel like I haven’t really got much out of my rounds all week, so it would be nice to finish with a really strong one. But at the end of the day we’re all here for a reason, and first and foremost is to get the job done.”
Lyras, Thompson, Doug Klein (T10, 69), Dimitrios Papadatos (T30, 69) and Hayden Hopewell (T30, 69) are currently inside the number with Jack Murdoch (T41, 69), Aaron Wilkin (T41, 70), Louis Dobbelaar (T41, 71) and Kiwi Nick Voke (T41, 73) just outside.
Denzel Ieremia (T53, 75), Tom Power Horan (T53, 67), Dylan Perry (T69, 70) and Kevin Chun (T69, 67) are also still in the mix.