ABU DHABI • World No. 1 Jordan Spieth battled against a fading sun to complete his third round of the US$2.7 million (S$3.9 million) Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship yesterday, playing the final hole of his round in near darkness and as a six-ball with another group.
The American golfer, who shot a bogey-free 68 to improve to seven under for the tournament, was one of 13 players to complete their weather-disrupted third round.
His group of Pablo Larrazabal and Soren Kjeldsen had to join the previous three-ball (Eddie Pepperell, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Tyrrell Hatton) on the ninth tee at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, their 18th hole having started from the 10th - to make it a sprint to the finish line.
The 22-year-old Texan was one behind clubhouse leader, Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (67), and three shots behind the leaders out on the golf course.
When play was suspended, there were five players tied on top at 10 under - world No. 3 Rory McIlroy (9 holes), Dutchman Joost Luiten (10 holes), world No. 6 Rickie Fowler (11 holes), England's Ian Poulter (13 holes) and South African Branden Grace (16 holes).
Four-time Major winner McIlroy grazed the pin from nearly 270 yards on the final hole of his second round, eventually making an eagle. That followed a birdie on 17 - his first of the round.
"I couldn't hole from outside two feet, so I thought I'd hit a couple of shots within two feet on the last two holes. It glossed over a pretty average round," said the 26-year-old McIlroy.
England's Andy Sullivan, who was leading by two shots on the ninth tee, was trailing by one by the time he finished the hole, having lost his ball in the bushes on the right side of the fairway.
He made a triple bogey on the hole and was on nine under along with four others - world No. 5 Henrik Stenson, 2012 champion Robert Rock, Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Belgian Thomas Pieters.
Early-morning fog for the second successive day delayed the start of play yesterday, this time by two hours and 50 minutes.
Spieth was relishing the extra few hours he would get in the morning today, but said that would not be a massive advantage.
"You know, not much. It just takes away from sitting around the clubhouse for hours. I can at least spend more time, maybe go to the gym in the morning," he said.
"I can do a little more than I would have been able to do if we were up before five. But all in all, as far as my play, I don't think it's going to affect much.
"I have not played a six-ball before. That was a first. We didn't really know what to do. We were all asking the guys in front of us, if you guys want to, just go finish and we'll play behind you, that's the way it's supposed to be. They didn't really mind us joining them.
"Plus Eddie's ball was picked up and so they had to wait for a while in the fairway. Pablo just decided to go ahead and hit, so we figured we may as well just hit them.
"(The group ahead) didn't care at all. They're good guys."
The cut was applied at 143 and 73 players made it to the weekend rounds.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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