Date: February 03, 2008

Els seizes control

Three-time Dubai Desert Classic winner Ernie Els is confident of maintaining his remarkable success rate at the Emirates Golf Club after storming to the top of the third-round leaderboard. The South African world number five struck a flawless seven-under-par 65 to open up a one-stroke advantage over defending champion Henrik Stenson. Peter O&aposMalley and Scott Hend are the leading Australians, the duo tied for 17th place at five-under-par. Els is chasing his first stroke play victory since last year&aposs South African Airways Open and has finished inside the top three in each of his last six visits to Dubai, a run which includes victories in 2002 and 2005, and three runners-up spots. Stenson, who last year birdied the final green to edge out Els by a single stroke, carded his second 68 of the week to sit alone in second place with Order of Merit leader Lee Westwood (68) and Northern Ireland&aposs Graeme McDowell (69) a further two shots off the pace. World number one Tiger Woods (71) would have joined the duo but rounded off a frustrating third round with a bogey at the last after hitting his second shot into greenside lake and joins Sergio Garcia (70), Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer (69), Shiv Kapur (69), Peter Hedblom (70) and Ireland&aposs Damien McGrane (72) at seven-under-par. “I&aposm swinging it better now than I have been all week, I hit the ball really nicely. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens,” said Els, who only missed one green during his third round. Els played a solid front nine in two under par before storming around the turn with an eagle three at the 549-yard 10th after playing a five wood to within four feet, which was quickly followed by two birdies in three holes. The 38-year-old rounded off the scoring with a solitary birdie at his penultimate hole, which was also birdied by Stenson to set up a seventh pairing in the last two years containing the duo. “It was a good round that I needed,” Els added. “I was disappointed with my second round. I thought I would probably need two 64s to have half a chance so a 65 today, I will probably need another low one. I can&apost see Henrik, Tiger and the other guys not shooting low so I have just got to keep it going. “It will be like a pressure cooker tomorrow, so I will need to get through that then start going through my round.” Els defended an eight-stroke final round lead in 1994 and a three-stroke cushion eight years later before coming from a shot back to claim his last Dubai title, while he also lost to Woods in a play-off in 2006. Third Round of the Qatar Masters (Par 72): -11: Ernie Els 68 72 65 -10: Henrik Stenson 68 70 68 -8: Graeme McDowell 67 72 69, Lee Westwood 69 71 68 -7: Sergio Garcia 68 71 70, Peter Hedblom 69 70 70, Shiv Kapur 68 72 69, Martin Kaymer 67 73 69, Damien McGrane 68 69 72, Tiger Woods 65 71 73 -6: Paul Broadhurst 70 71 69, Ross Fisher 69 70 71, David Frost 72 69 69, Soren Hansen 68 72 70, Thomas Levet 67 71 72, Gary Murphy 67 72 71 -5: Simon Dyson 67 77 67, Scott Hend (Australia) 67 72 72, Peter O Malley (Australia) 68 73 70, Louis Oosthuizen 73 69 69, Hennie Otto 69 70 72, Ian Poulter 70 71 70 Also: -2: Marcus Fraser (Australia) 69 75 70 E: Brendan Jones (Australia) 71 71 74