Daly chasing Lawrie at Qatar Masters


DOHA, Qatar – Former British Open Champion Paul Lawrie recovered from a penalty for dropping his ball on a marker to shoot a 5-under 67 Saturday and take a one-shot lead over Nicolas Colsaerts into the final round of the Qatar Masters.

Lawrie took advantage of calmer conditions at the Doha Golf Course to make six birdies for an 8-under total of 136 after two rounds of the wind-affected event, which has been shortened to 54 holes. The 43-year-old Scotsman birdied the 16th to move into a tie with Colsaerts and then added another on 18 to take the outright lead.

The tournament has been disrupted by wind all week, and organizers were forced to call off Friday’s play and reduce the event to three rounds. Dozens of players were forced to stop their rounds after gusts of up to 56 kph (35 mph) moved balls and tossed around signs. Conditions improved Saturday but it remained windy.

“I played very good again, hitting it beautifully tee to green,” said Lawrie, who won the Andalucian Open in 2011 for his first win in nine years. “Anytime you play as solidly as that and hit a few putts in there it’s a fair chance you are going to play well.”

Lawrie’s could have had an even bigger lead, had he not accidentally dropped his ball on his marker at the 10th green. Since it was unclear whether the ball moved, Lawrie was forced to take a one-shot penalty. It was a similar mistake to that made by Ian Poulter during a two-way playoff at the Dubai World Championship in 2010, when his penalty essentially gave the win to Robert Karlsson of Sweden.

“I didn’t see it and no one else saw it so you have to take the penalty and kind of kick on,” Lawrie said. “It’s one of these freak, stupid rules. … It’s like Poulter in Dubai, the same thing. It’s one of those many rules that could do with changing a wee bit.”

Playing in front of Lawrie, Colsaerts also birdied the 18th after a bunker shot that rolled to within a foot of the pin to briefly take the lead. It was one of his six birdies on the day and came after he had one of his two bogeys on the 17th.

“I am playing very well even though I think I could have hit closer to some flags,” the Belgian said. “I managed quite well, kept the ball in play and didn’t do anything stupid.”

Colsaerts, known for his big hitting, won his first victory on the European Tour last year at the Volvo China Open and then finished fourth at the Volvo Golf Champions in January.

Peter Hanson of Sweden (69) and Ricardo Gonzalez of Argentina (67) were two shots off the lead. James Kingston of South Africa (69) and Simon Kahn of England (68) – who eagled his final hole – are three shots back with another 10 players including Jason Day (72), Sergio Garcia (68) and John Daly (73) a further shot back.

Third-ranked Lee Westwood (70) and fourth-ranked Martin Kaymer (70) are at 3 under.

Hanson, who dropped out of contention with a 78 in the final round in Abu Dhabi, did well to remain in the hunt. He endured a stretch where he had a pair bogeys to finish the front nine and then bogeyed two of three holes on the back before closing out with two birdies on final two holes.

“I got off to a great start, 4 under par after seven, and then made some stupid mistakes around the turn, lost a bit of rhythm, and was just trying to hang in there,” Hanson said. “It was nice to finish with those two birdies as well to get to 6 under.”

First-round leader Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (75) couldn’t match his nine-birdie performance on Thursday – ending up with no birdies and three bogies. Daly, the clubhouse leader when play was suspended, started strong with a birdie on the second but had three of his four bogeys on his front nine to drop down the leaderboard.

“I didn’t hit the tee-balls as good as I did Thursday,” Daly said. “But I hung in there. Some of those bogeys I made could have been doubles or triples just as easy.”

Several big names failed to make the cut, led by Hunter Mahan of the United States who finished at 5-over 149 after poor putting led to four bogeys on his back nine. K.J. Choi was just a shot off the lead Thursday but a 78 that included two double bogeys left him at 2 over for the tournament.

Mahan, who made a 17,000-mile detour to play in the Middle East for the first time, struggled in the windy conditions from the start and never recovered from an opening-round 74.

“I played awful today,” Mahan said. “It just didn’t happen today. I’m going to go home and I’ve got three more tournaments coming up and I’ve got to get ready for them.”