Rasmus Hojgaard, Rikuya Hoshino, and Ugo Coussaud yesterday emerged at the top of the leaderboard with a slender one-shot lead, intensifying the competition thrilling third round of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, at the Doha Golf Club.
The day, termed ‘Moving Day’ for its potential to shake up the leaderboard, lived up to its name as seven different players, at various times, claimed the top spot in a display of prowess and unpredictability.
The drama unfolded early when Haydn Barron, starting the day as the leader, initially extended his lead to ten under par with an early birdie. However, Barron’s grip on the lead loosened as he faced challenges on the front nine, allowing a dynamic chasing pack to close in.
A tense battle ensued as Hoshino, Hojgaard, alongside Scot Ewen Ferguson and Paul Waring, momentarily formed a five-way tie for the lead at seven under par. This came after brief moments of dominance by Alejandro Del Rey of Spain and South Africa’s Hennie du Plessis.
But 2022 Champion Ferguson seized the initiative to climb to nine under, only for Hoshino to quickly move to double figures.
A hat-trick of birdies around the turn saw Coussaud hold a two-shot advantage at 11 under after 13 holes.
However, a bogey at the 15th halved his advantage, and Hojgaard and Hoshino ensured they were alongside the Frenchman at the top with birdies at the penultimate hole for a three-way lead with 18 holes to play.
Hojgaard, who has been not dropped a shot in his last 33 holes, said: “Most part of the round was very solid. I felt I was pretty good out of the tee box, I gave myself some good chances and rolled a few in.
“The last few holes there were a couple of poor swings, but managed to keep it bogey-free so that’s a positive.”
It looked as though Australian Barron was continuing his momentum from the opening two rounds when he climbed to ten under after the first hole.
Hoshino was in close quarters with an opening birdie and he was in leading group when Barron bogeyed the third and fourth, despite the Japanese dropping a shot at the latter hole as well.
That left the door open for Hojgaard, Ferguson and Waring to join them at the top of the leaderboard at seven under, but Hoshino moved ahead with a gain at the seventh.
However, Ferguson, who had to wait until the seventh to pick up his first shot of the day, went a terrific run of six birdies in eight holes to take the outright lead at nine under after 14 holes.
Coussaud joined him at that mark on the back of a hat-trick of birdies from the eighth, only for Hoshino to move into double figures after gains at the ninth and tenth.
He immediately gave the shot back at the 11th, which saw Coussaud take full advantage following a brace of birdies at the 12th and 13th.
The Frenchman now held a two-shot lead, but he found trouble from the tee at the 15th to halve his deficit and Hojgaard wasted no time to reach double figures for the first time at the 17th hole.
The Dane drained a 13-foot putt to sit alongside Coussaud at the top, but Hoshino joined the pair when he sank a birdie at the penultimate hole for the third day in a row.
Hojgaard and Coussaud struggled off the final tee, but both managed to salvage par, while Hoshino slid a birdie putt by which would have given him a one-shot lead heading into the final round.
“I had a very good start, two birdies, but the putter was quite hot today and felt I hit very good tee-shots as well,” Coussaud said. “I was never in too much trouble before 15, but I had a proper round and enjoyed it today.”
Ferguson carded the joint-lowest round of the tournament with a flawless six-under-par 66 to sit one adrift alongside Northern Irishman Tom McKibbin and Denmark’s Niklas Nørgaard.
English pair Waring and Sam Bairstow are at eight under, while Barron battled back to join first-round leader Ashun Wu and Jorge Campillo one stroke further back.