Tommy Fleetwood primed for title bid at Royal Greens: Saudi International final round preview

The Englishman closed to within two shots of the leader Harold Varner III with a 3-under-par third round of 67.

Tommy Fleetwood negotiated blustery third round winds to post a 3-under-par 67 that leaves him solo third heading into the final round of the Saudi International at Royal Greens.

The Englishman trails the leader Harold Varner III by two shots after the American compiled a 54 hole total of 12-under 198.

Spain's Adri Arnaus is alone in second on 11-under, with Cameron Smith two behind Fleetwood on 8-under, followed by two-time course winner Dustin Johnson in a share of fifth with Ryosuke Kinoshita and Wade Ormsby on 7-under.

"It was hard all day, a lot of scrapping" Fleetwood said. "I enjoy the challenge really, but it's always good when you have your eye in. When it's not going well, it can be a very hard day."

After working hard on his game to break a two year win drought, Fleetwood felt the conditions played into his hands somewhat.

"It's probably good for me in a way, the wind, because it just takes away too much analysis and technique really. You feel like you just have to feel shots and create something. Some clubs that make no sense at all."

His plan for Sunday is simple: "Just go out and do the same. Play the way that I played for the first three days, and we'll see if it's good enough."

Varner was keeping things straightforward after fighting the wind. Asked if it had been difficult he joked: "Life's hard. This is easy.

"I just did a good job of just slowing down and doing my job. I love competing. I mean, it's the greatest thing in life is competing and just working at it.

"Got a great opportunity tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to it."

Specialists to the fore

It's notable that the top of the leaderboard is packed with players adept at dealing with windy conditions.

Varner III is yet to win on the PGA Tour, but he did triumph in the 2016 Australian PGA Championship, a year after finishing second in the same event - on both occasions the wind was severe.

Fleetwood is a noted links specialist, Smith frequently cites his fondness for a breezy test, Johnson has twice won in poor conditions by the ocean at Pebble Beach, and even Ormsby is known for coping with gusts.

The forecast for Sunday suggests wind of around 20kph early in the day but it will rise later to around 35kph.

Royal Greens trends

The good news for the Varner III is that the three previous champions of this event were all in the lead after 54 holes.

In the inaugural tournament Dustin Johnson had a share of the advantage, Graeme McDowell was one clear and Johnson two clear when he won for a second time last year.

Varner III is, however, 0-for-5 at converting a 54 hole lead. Arnaus is yet to win a first tier tour event. Fleetwood's last four wins have come from chasing - three times he was within two blows of the lead, once he was six back.

Three of Smith's six career wins have come from off the lead, but the biggest margin he has overcome is three. Johnson has come back from five behind at this stage, when winning the 2015 Cadillac Championship.

Twin trouble

Meanwhile, in the DP World Tour's Ras al Khaimah Championship, Nicolai Hojgaard takes a dominant lead into the final day after a superb third round of 8-under-par 64.

His 20-under 196 total leaves him three shots clear of second placed David Law, four ahead of Tapio Pulkannen, five ahead of Oliver Bekker and fully six in front of Robert MacIntyre, Johannes Veerman, Jordan Smith and Thomas Detry who share fifth.

The 20-year-old Dane landed his first win on the circuit last year in the Italian Open and is playing catch-up with his twin brother Rasmus, who has won in each of the last three calendar years.

He burst clear of the pack with a blistering finish to a round that witnessed five birdies in the final six holes.

Key to his scoring was his prodigious hitting from the tee. He drove through the green at the 353-yard par-4 13th and his birdies at 14, 16, 17 and 18 were all set up by drives in excess of 340-yards.

"I'm driving really well at the moment," he said with some understatement afterwards. "I'm trying to play quite aggressive and the last two days have been good off the tees.

"I'm just thinking about the par fives, playing them in four under every day and see if I can make birdies on the rest of the holes.

"You want to be in these positions in the final round, but it's 18 more holes and a lot can happen. I've heard it will be a little more windy so you never know. I'm going to try and do the same things out on the course, commit and free up and then I'll feel like I have a good chance."

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