Grant Forrest stayed on course for a career-best pay-day in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship – and also a place in the second leg of the European Tour’s desert double-header.
The Lothians star recovered from dropping two shots early on in the third round of the $7 million Rolex Series event to card a level-par 72 in testing conditions at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
On eight-under-par, Forrest sits joint-12th heading into the closing round, when he will go out with 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen as the North Berwick man bids to round off a great week in the UAE.
A top-10 finish would see Forrest, who is making his Rolex Series debut, earn a minimum of $140,000 while 15th position is worth more than $100,000.
Forrest, one of the four Scottish newcomers on the circuit this season, is currently eighth reserve for next week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic and is due to play in a 36-hole shootout event for three spots in that tournament on Sunday and Monday.
But he’ll go straight into the field for the event won back-to-back by Stephen Gallacher in 2013 and 2014 if he can finish strongly here to climb back into the top 10.
“I have a lot to play for tomorrow, so I aim to focus on that,” said the Craigielaw player, who secured his step up to the main tour by finishing seventh on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit last season.
“Hopefully it will be a case of the same again and I will certainly be going out there aiming to do my best.”
As Irishman Shane Lowry stayed on course for a wire-to-wire win – he leads by three shots – Forrest was pleased how he recovered from an eventful second-hole setback.
“I hit a poor tee shot and ended up in a deep footprint in the left sand,” said the former Scottish Amateur champion. “I went to move what I thought was a single leaf but it was attached to a twig and the ball moved.
“I called the ref over and had to replace it, with a single-shot penalty, still in the footprint. I hacked it into the rough then found the front bunker and must have made a 45-footer for a bogey-6. That was a bit of a relief as it could have been pretty bad there.” He also dropped a shot at the par-4 fifth before repairing that damage with a burst of three straight birdies from the tenth. His only deviation from par thereafter was a bogey at the 17th, where he was in two bunkers.
“I was pretty scrappy on the front nine, but I then hit a cracking second shot in No 10. I had about 270 yards and hit a rescue to 10 feet, just missing the eagle putt.
“I hit a nice shot into 11 and the same on 12. That settled me after that for some tough holes and, overall, I am pretty happy with how I ended up. Going out, I thought to myself, if we can get round in level par, you are not going to fall miles down the leaderboard. It was playing tough out there today.”
Bidding for a second successive top-five finish on the circuit, Glasgow’s Scott Jamieson birdied the last to sit a shot ahead of Forrest, with Bob MacIntyre and Richie Ramsay on three and two-under respectively. “A bad iron shot at the 12th killed me mentally for a few holes,” said Capital-based Ramsay after signing for a 74. “I duffed two shots through mental mistakes.”