Defending Qatar Masters champion Branden Grace back in contention
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 29/01/16 3:18pm
Branden Grace hasn’t given up hope of retaining his Qatar Masters title after moving within two strokes of leader Paul Lawrie during the third round in Doha.
The defending champion made a slow start to the week with a two-under 70, but bounced by following a birdie-filled second round 67 with a four-under 68 in much tougher scoring conditions on Friday to get back in to contention.
The top seed bolstered his hopes of becoming the first player to successfully defend their Qatar Masters title when he finished his third round with three consecutive birdies, but isn't getting carried away about his chances of a first win of 2016.
"I'm just glad with the type of golf that I'm playing and I'm giving myself a shot at retaining the trophy," Grace told Sky Sports. "It's good, I'm playing some good golf and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
"It was a brutal day out there; the wind was blowing and the greens were tricky. In conditions like that, it's tough to give yourself those chances.
"I think patience was the name of the game and I pretty much got the most out of my round today. I didn't really think I left any out there, so four under was a great score.
"I think the putting is going to be the key tomorrow. The guy who is going to make the most putts is going to come out on top."
Grace is joined on 11 under by Thorbjorn Olesen, with the pair briefly being just one off the pace until Lawrie extended his advantage with a birdie at the last.
Lawrie defied strong winds to post a bogey-free third round 70 and enhances his chances of a third Qatar title, following wins in 1999, the same year as his Open triumph, and 2012.
The Scot's last European Tour victory came in the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2012, with the 47-year-old left slightly disappointed not to be taking a bigger advantage in to the final round.
"A little bit frustrated because I kind of felt as though I hit a lot of good putts that didn't go in today," Lawrie told Sky Sports. "But there's lots of players doing that this week.
"Any time you go around a course like that in two under par in tough conditions, you'll take it. I'm kind of reasonably good when I've got to take a bit off a club, my swing has always been quite long and slow.
"It's just nice to know that you've been there, done it before a couple times on a golf course. I had a couple of top-10s back-to-back last year at KLM and Denmark and really should have been higher up in both of them.
"It's not as though it's been years (without a strong finish) and hopefully I kind of get in there and hit the shots that I'm hitting, knock a few putts in and it all goes well."
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