Scott Jamieson leads, Shane Lowry, Thomas Pieters chase: Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship R4 preview

The Scot is on the brink of the biggest win of his career, but will be chased to the line by Ryder Cuppers Shane Lowry and Thomas Pieters.

The difference between Scott Jamieson's only win on the DP World Tour and this week's tournament, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship which he leads by one shot with 18 holes to play, could not be more profound.

That maiden triumph at the 2012 Nelson Mandela Invitational was played inside a race track, the weather was appalling, the tournament became a 36-hole shootout, the course was reduced to a par of 65, and Jamieson thrashed a final round unofficial 57 to win a trophy that has widely been mocked for its comedy value ever since.

This week's tournament is part of the Rolex Series, the money on offer is life-transforming, the opportunities that would come with success would be career-changing, the course is widely admired, the field strong, the pressure enormous.

The 38-year-old Scot spent much of the third round at Yas Link without the lead, but he hung tough and carded a 4-under-par 68 for an 11-under 205 total that leaves him one stroke clear of Shane Lowry and Thomas Pieters, with Viktor Hovland and Shubhankar Sharma a further two shots in arrears of the pace-setter.

Asked what he needed to do in order to claim a second win Jamieson said: "It's a great question. You know, all I can do is play whatever shot is in front of me. All those clichés, stay in the moment and just try to hit the best shot I can.

"It would be massive, a game changer to win a tournament of this stature. There's definitely been some great champions here, but that's an awful long way to go."

Irishman Lowry and Belgium's Pieters both carded bogey-free 67s and their shadow will loom large over the leader.

Lowry was encouraged by his Ryder Cup debut late last year and has talked of his hunger coming into 2022. The new host course suits the linksland specialist and he is also a past champion of the tournament (three years ago).

He came close to making a catastrophic error at the last, nearly laying up into water, but he saved par from an ice plant and laughed about how much that incident had changed his mindset.

"Could have been a different story," he chuckled. "I'm not sure I'd be standing here. I might be sitting in the locker room sulking right now.

"It's great to be in contention. There's been plenty of times I've missed the cut in my first tournament of the year and it gets you off to a really bad start. It's nice to be where I am and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow."

Pieters also enjoyed the event's previous home, the Abu Dhabi GC, collecting three top five finishes. He's a man on the rise after failing to ride the wave following his own hugely impressive Ryder Cup bow in 2016.

He ended 2021 with victory in Portugal and a top 20 in the DP World Tour Championship. A win this week would be the sixth of his career but, like Jamieson, the biggest.

"After eight weeks off you don't really know where your game is," he admitted. "But obviously the confidence is still there. I kind of wanted to keep going at the end of last year, but it's nice to just keep it going."

Does he like the new host, he was asked. "To be honest, I prefer the old one," he said. "But does it suit me? I don't know. I've just been hit going golf shots."

Forza Andrea

Your correspondent has something of a soft spot for Italy's Andrea Pavan.

Back in 2011 he was in Italy to witness the 32-year-old's victory in the Challenge Tour Grand Final, clinched after a final round duel with Tommy Fleetwood. His first crack at the main tour, which followed, fell flat and so, too, did his second (after a pair of second tier wins in 2013).

But five years later he found the secret, claiming the Czech Masters and adding the BMW International Open a year later. At the end of 2018 he told me that he'd ceased trying to find length from the tee, accepting that his strength lay with his excellent approach work.

But something went wrong 15 months later. He missed the cut at the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and it set in motion a horror run. He's made just five cuts in 35 starts the last two years with not one top 30 and he's needed at last 75 blows in 22 of his last 31 rounds.

However, he's carded 69-72-69 this week and he lies tied ninth heading into the final round. A lot of people are hoping he can maintain that scoring this week and kick on for the rest of the year.

Final round tournament stats

We don't have anything to go on at the course, but since the start of the 21st century the numbers are pretty compelling when it comes to who has a hope ahead of the final lap.

In the 21st century strokeplay tournament on the DP World Tour have been won by players tied third or better with 18 holes to play 80% of the time, tied fifth and better has a 90% conversion rate, and top 10 is 97%.

The outliers - the other 3% - are almost always prompted by weather conditions, something like a repeat of Friday's weather, in fact. Alas, there should be a stiff breeze, but nothing more.

Leading contenders record at this stage

Jamieson has held five pre-final round leads. He's yet to win from that position, yet to respond with a sub-70 score, but four times he ended the tournament in the top four.

Lowry is 0-for-5 from second after 54 holes, but has always finished top five. His five career wins have all come from being tied third or better at this stage.

Pieters is 1-for-2 at pouncing from this position. The first time, which didn't result in victory, was actually in this event in 2015. Four of his five career wins have come from being tied second or better at this point.

Three of Hovland's four wins came when he held the pre-final round lead, the fourth from two shots back.

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