AJMAN — Golf's Mr. Nice Guy Andrew Marshall described Henric Sturehed as a ‘superb talent’ after the Swede tightened his grip on the MENA Tour Championship by seizing a massive seven-shot lead going into the final around at Al Zorah Golf Club on Wednesday.
A good five shots in front at the start, Sturehed rode a scorching start en route to a 67 to reach 18-under for the tournament as Marshall, his playing partner, carded a tidy 69, to sit alone in second place at 11-under.
Order of Merit leader Jamie Elson of England reeled off three straight birdies coming home in his third-round 70 that left him alone in third on nine-under with Adam Sagar joining Sweden’s Fredrik From for a share of fourth on seven-under.
On a day when MENA Tour patron Darren Clarke and Michael Campbell, the 2005 US Open champion, visited the venue, Welshman Toby Hunt kept it clean on the back nine with five birdies in his third-round 66 as he joined Canada’s Lindsay Renolds and Jake Shepherd of England in a three-way tie for sixth on six-under.
It was Sturehed, who again took centre-stage with a birdie-filled third round to consolidate his advantage.
“Played a solid tee-to-green. I feel like my swing is comfortable and consistent. Hit it close (to the pin) and created many scoring opportunities,” said the 27-year-old Swede, who notched up seven birdies, including six on the front nine, against two bogeys.
“My game plan is to just play my game and try and make as many birdies possible, and the rest will take care of itself," said Sturehed, who will approach the final round with one hand on the trophy.
Digging into his vast experience, Marshall kept alive his chances of making a strong finish. “Played nicely and holed some good putts,” said the veteran Englishman, who lauded Sturehed for his all-round game.
“He is a superb talent. Very impressed with his game. He is strong off the tee and accurate with his irons. He has great potential and I absolutely believe he will go far,” he added.
On a day when players wore red, white (the colours of the American flag) as a mark of respect for, Billy Mellon, a former MENA Tour player who died aged 35 recently, 19 players finished the third round in red figures.
Taylor Carter birdied two of his final three holes as he shot a two-under 70 to stay atop in the amateur division on four-under, a good two strokes clear of fellow Englishman Sam Hobday with Todd Clements lurking a further back on one-under.
On a moving day as the penultimate round is generally referred to, England’s Benjamin David, tied for 34th overnight, made the biggest move, jumping to tied 15th on two-under after a 66, the day’s best round highlighted by five birdies in a row from the 14th.
Elsewhere, the English duo Joe Heraty and Luke Joy were tied for ninth on five under as defending champion Tyler Hogarty carded a 70 to reach two-under for the tournament, three shots ahead of England’s Zane Scotland, a 10-time winner on the MENA Tour.
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.
Multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Maybank Championship Malaysia, and the KLM Open are some of the added incentives that await the leading MENA Tour stars, in addition to playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour, and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour Q-Schools.