(Reuters) – Briton Tyrrell Hatton hit a second successive four-under-par 68 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of a fiercely contested Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Just three shots separate the leading 16 players as they head into the final round.
Hatton, who has finished in the top 10 seven times in his last 11 events, recorded five birdies for the third round in succession and carded just a single bogey.
His total of 203 put him one stroke ahead of fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, overnight leader Martin Kaymer, Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal, Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand and American Dustin Johnson, who carded a flawless 64.
Among those in the chasing pack were British Open champion Henrik Stenson, fellow Swede Alex Noren and 23-times European Tour winner Lee Westwood, all just three shots off the lead.
The 25-year-old Hatton, who won his first Tour event in October, told reporters he had been pleasantly surprised by his form in Abu Dhabi.
“I didn’t do a whole lot of practice. I spent most of my time playing Xbox and chilling out at home,” he said.
“The big names are up there, so I’ve just got to focus on my game and try and play as well as I can.
“I love this place. It’s one of my favorite events of the year, so hopefully I can go out there tomorrow and have a good day.”
Johnson, the U.S. Open champion, swept into contention with a sparkling round of 64 to equal the best of the week, including six birdies and an eagle.
German Kaymer fell back into joint-second place after making three bogeys in a disappointing round of 72.
(Reporting by Neville Dalton, editing by Ed Osmond)