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Rose challengers need to go low Sunday at HSBC

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose maintained his advantage over the field at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and closed to within 18 holes of his fourth European Tour title on Saturday.

Rose carded a 4-under 68 in Round 3 to move two strokes clear of the field on a perfect day for scoring in his first start of the 2013 season and appears to have picked up where he left off last season in the Middle East.

“Some days you have to work harder than others and some days are a bit of a grind even if you do come in with a good score,” said Rose, who made five birdies in six holes at one point on Saturday after three-putting the first hole to temporarily fall out of the lead. “But today was a day when it felt pretty smooth.”

Jamie Donaldson and Thorbjorn Olesen are tied for second place after matching 69s while Martin Kaymer (70) is six strokes adrift in 11th place and American Jason Dufner (72) is tied for 19th at 4 under.

Those chasing Rose may be out of luck if the Englishman comes close to matching his final round in November at the DP World Tour Championship down the road in Dubai. At last year’s European Tour finale Rose rallied with a closing-day 62 but finished two strokes behind winner Rory McIlroy.

“If you go out to shoot 62 you often take on shots that you shouldn’t take on and you end up making careless bogeys,” Rose said. “This week, based on how wide the fairways are, I think it takes the really low score out of the picture.”

But then that could be bad news for the rest of the field who may need something close to a 62 to challenge Rose the way he has begun his season.