What began as a duel quickly turned into a rout.
Martin Kaymer started the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with a one-shot lead, and was two shots clear of expected challenger Rory McIlroy. When the dust settled Saturday, the German had amassed a six-shot advantage over Thomas Pieters and was eight shots ahead of the current world No. 1.
Kaymer already has three Abu Dhabi victories to his credit, and he is now closing in on win No. 4 in just the tournament's 10th year of existence. Kaymer spun a bogey-free 65 during the third round, quickly padding his lead with five birdies on his first eight holes, and never looked back.
Kaymer is familiar with being a front-runner, and that comfort level showed in the desert. The 30-year-old has not won since his eight-shot romp at the U.S. Open in June, and he also led wire-to-wire at The Players Championship in May. He entered the week No. 12 in the OWGR and is now on the cusp of improving on that standing after setting a tournament 54-hole scoring record at 20 under par.
Kaymer was rarely in trouble during the third round, hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation, but even when staring at a likely bogey the German steeled his nerves. After taking an unplayable lie on the par-5 10th, Kaymer was short of the green in a bunker after four shots. He promptly holed his sand shot for an improbable par save, his second hole-out from the bunker in as many days.
While everything was clicking for Kaymer, McIlroy was unable to generate any momentum and settled for a 1-under 71. The Ulsterman made only two birdies on the day and dropped from solo third place into a tie for fifth, with the likes of Bernd Wiesberger and Alexander Levy now between him and the leader.
The final round appears to be a coronation for Kaymer, who won in Abu Dhabi in 2008, 2010 and 2011 and was also a runner-up in 2009. Saturday was Kaymer's eighth career round of 66 or better in Abu Dhabi.