Els Leads by Four at Heineken Classic
Peter O'Malley carded a 2-under 70 to move into second at 10-under 206 while five players lie two shots further back at minus-eight, including defending champion Michael Campbell (68) of New Zealand.
Els began the day with a three-shot lead and got off to a quick start with a birdie on the second. However, he ran into trouble with bogeys on the fourth and sixth, finding greenside bunkers on both holes.
'I had a bit of a shaky start but after No. 6 I really thought I played OK.' said Els.
The two-time U.S. Open winner countered with a birdie on the seventh while Australian Stephen Leaney had begun a charge of his own.
Leaney picked up two strokes with back-to-back birdies from the second and added another on the par-5 ninth to move into a tie with Els at 11-under.
He jumped into the lead momentarily with a birdie on the par-5 10th but Els matched him with a birdie at the ninth.
The South African regained the lead outright on the following hole. Despite finding the rough off the tee he managed to reach the green in two and rolled home the 15-foot putt for an eagle to move to 14-under.
Meanwhile Leaney began to fall apart on the 11th with the first of four bogeys over his next five holes to finish at 8-under.
Els played at even-par to close out the round. Sunday he will be looking for his seventh win on the European Tour and his first since the Standard Life Loch Lomond in 2000.
'I don't know if I'm all that comfortable. You've got to be careful when the wind's blowing out there,' said Els. 'The greens were a bit softer out there so you could be a bit more aggressive.'
O'Malley got within three shots of Els but three-putted the 17th for a bogey to drop to 10-under.
Campbell and Leaney were joined by Englishmen Barry Lane (68) and David Howell (70) as well as Richard Lee (71) of New Zealand.
Lee torched the Composite Course at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club with eight birdies and an eagle en route to a course record 10-under 62 during Friday's second round.
The 28-year-old got off to a hot start in the third round holing out from the fairway for an eagle on the first but managed only two birdies to go along with five bogeys the rest of the way.
'I'm very happy with a 71. I had a chance to do better but a couple of bad drives towards the end just cost me,' he said.
A group of seven players are knotted at seven-under 209 including Greg Norman.
Norman. a playing partner of Els, bogeyed the third but hit his approach to within six feet for a birdie on the sixth. He added back-to-back birdies around the turn but ran into trouble with three bogeys on the back nine.
The 46-year-old finished alongside three of his fellow countrymen in Adam Scott (70), Peter Fowler (70) and Robert Allenby (71), Mark Pilkington (73) of Wales and the English duo of Nick Faldo (69) and Philip Golding (70).
Full-Field Scores from the Heineken Classic
McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.
McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.
''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''
Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.
''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''
McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.
''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.
''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''
The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.
Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel
If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.
Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:
When in the Middle East... pic.twitter.com/lNv1Lh79E0— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 16, 2018
If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:
Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."
Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."
I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H
And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.
“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.