DOHA: Wang Jeunghun raised hopes of a first Asian champion at the 20th Commercial Bank Qatar Masters after the 21-year-old Korean shot a bogey-free 65 to take a three-shot lead into Sunday’s final round at Doha Golf Club.
After starting Saturday in a nine-way tie at eight-under, the 2016 European Tour Rookie of the Year – who won back-to-back titles in Morocco and Mauritius last May – moved to 15-under to finish three ahead of playing partner Jaco Van Zyl (68) of South Africa and Spain’s Nacho Elvira (68), who are both seeking a first European Tour win.
South Africa’s Thomas Aiken (68) was fourth on 11-under, one ahead of 2016 Ryder Cup players Rafa Cabrera-Bello (66) of Spain and Andy Sullivan (70) of England, Englishman Nathan Kimsey (66), Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (70) and Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren (67).
Among the star draws, four-time Major winner Ernie Els (71), World Number 10 Alex Noren (71) and 2013 champion Chris Wood (70) were on seven-under, two-time Major winner Martin Kaymer (68) was six-under and 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell (70) was five-under.
However, it was Wang who was the star of the day as he signed autographs and took photos with a large crowd after taking control of the tournament with birdies at holes three, five, nine, 10, 11, 16 and 18.
“I got a lot of confidence from the fans. A couple of them brought a Korea flag, so I felt really great,” said Wang, who will again play with Van Zyl on Sunday.
“My irons are really good now. That was the key to seven-under and my putting was really good, too. Everything’s good right now.”
Wang is playing the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters for the first time, but admitted he’s enjoying a love affair with the Championship Course, which has produced a star-studded list of champions including Els, Adam Scott, Retief Goosen and Sergio Garcia.
Since struggling to two-over-par after his first three holes on Thursday, Wang has only carded one bogey in his next 51 holes with rounds of 69, 67 and 65.
“I think I like this course. I like the wind and the green conditions. It’s pretty nice for me, nice to play,” said Wang, the youngest player in last year’s Olympic Men’s Golf Tournament in Brazil.
“The wind is similar to the courses where I won, but the course is different. I love to play this course and I’m so excited about tomorrow. Right now, there are no nerves, but tomorrow … I’m not sure yet!”
Kiradech, who was in the group ahead of Wang, admits Wang is in a prime position to win his third and biggest European Tour title, but believes there are many other players in with a chance.
“I heard a lot of cheers behind me all day. I didn’t see anything because the game was so fast because it was two-balls, but I knew what was going on,” said Kiradech, who played with Wang in a three-ball on the first two days.
“He has a lot of confidence right now and in his position, it’s a good chance to take the trophy. I remember he was two-over after his first few holes, so to finish the third round 15-under shows he’s the hot player in the field. But there are 18 more holes and if the wind picks up, anything can change.”