KUWAIT CITY — Stuart Archibald moved a step closer to his first MENA Tour title when he notched up four birdies around the turn en route to a 66 to take a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the Sahara Kuwait Golf Championship on Tuesday.
The 33-year-old Englishman, one back at the start, mixed seven birdies with three bogeys to top the leaderboard at 10-under as a four-man group, led by compatriot Luke Joy, was lurking just behind the leader.
Max Smith, also of England, who fired the day’s best score of a 65, Henric Sturehed of Sweden and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre completed the group snapping at the heels of Archibald, one clear of Daniel Hendry (Scotland) and Philip Geerts (Italy).
Joshua White, the winner of the MENA Tour’s Order of Merit title in 2014, returned a second round 67 that left him alone in eighth place on seven under as just four shots separated the top 10, promising a thrilling finish to the event coming down the stretch on Wednesday.
“The conditions were much tougher today with cross winds affecting distance control on approach shots,” said Archibald, adding: “It feels good to be in the mix, but we still have 18 holes to play, anything can happen.”
Rising Scottish star MacIntyre backed up his opening 65 with a tidy 66 to put himself in the frame for a shot at the title. “Just kind of everything from ball striking to putting fell together, again," said the 21-year-old prodigy, who is playing in his very second event since turning professional two weeks ago.
"Very pleased with the way things are going. You never know what tomorrow holds, but it feels great to be in contention,” said MacIntyre, who is now 17-under for his last three rounds he has played on the MENA Tour, including a closing 8-under 64 he shot at the Jordan’s Ayla Golf Championship on October 7.
England’s Smith, tied for eighth overnight, picked up seven shots in a nine-hole stretch from the fifth to move up the leaderboard as overnight leader Sturehed carded a bogey-free 68 to stay within shouting distance of the leader along with Joy.
England’s Todd Clements carded a second-round 68 to extend his overnight advantage to three shots as his nearest challenger Michael Harradine settled for a level-par 70 in the amateur division.
Clements, the current Order of Merit leader, picked up three shots to offset an early double bogey on the second before making the turn at one-under. Two birdies and a bogey highlighted his back nine as the Englishman continued his incredible run of success of the tour.
Scotland’s Hendry was also fancying his chances of going the full distance. I am striking the ball well and, more importantly, holing good putts. It feels great to be in this position,” said the 23-year-old, a product of the UAE’s Junior Development.
“I have played a lot on the Peter Harradine-designed courses in the UAE and the experience is coming in handy here,” said Hendry, the former winner of the prestigious Shaikh Rashid Trophy.
The cut was made at four-over 144 with 47 professionals and 11 amateurs making it to the final round.
An initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Tour was created in 2011 with the aim of developing golf in the region. It is affiliated to R&A, the worldwide golf governing body based in the home of golf, St Andrews, and the Arab Golf Federation and enjoys the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) status.
A guaranteed spot on the PGA Tour’s 2018 DEAN & DELUCA Invitational (for the MENA Tour champion), multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Hassan II Trophy, Maybank Championship Malaysia, and the KLM Open, are some of the added incentives that await MENA Tour members, in addition to playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour, and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour Q-Schools.