China's Li Haotong could do a Feng

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Chinas Li Haotong could do a Feng
Li Haotong of China plays a shot during day three of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Dubai - The 22-year-old has played near flawless golf over the three days

By James Jose

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Published: Sat 27 Jan 2018, 7:10 PM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2018, 1:40 PM

A certain Chinese, going by the name of Shanshan Feng, has made the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters (now rebranded the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic), her own with four pieces of silverware sitting proudly in the world No.1's trophy cabinet.
And while she has aced the Majlis Course of the Emirates Golf Club on the Ladies European Tour, the men's equivalent is yet to see a Chinese, or for that matter, an Asian at the top.
But that could change on Sunday and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic could have its first Chinese winner if Li Haotong keeps doing what he has been doing.
The 22-year-old has played near flawless golf over the three days and his showing in the third round on Saturday took the spotlight away from Rory McIlory and put it firmly on the Volvo China Open winner.
Li, who finished an impressive third at The Open last year, sits on top of the leaderboard with a one-stroke lead over McIlroy.
Li shot an eight-under 64 on the day for a 20-under 196 but the groundwork was actually done over the first two days where he shot an identical 66.
Although he had a double bogey and two bogeys, the 10 birdies that he had shot on Friday set things in motion.
All he had to do was keep it solid and tidy which is easier said than done, especially when you are playing alongside McIlroy, a two-time winner of the Desert Classic, no less.
But Li enjoyed the Northern Irishman's exalted company and knocked in eight birdies on a glorious day for him. The Chinese will again have McIlroy's company on the morrow in what is effectively a straight shoot-out.
And it will be epic if he can cross the line ahead of the Northern Irishman.
Earlier in the morning, there was some unfinished business to be done with, with the 66 golfers, half the field, going on to complete their second round, which had been suspended on Thursday due to fading light.
And McIlroy had aced it by shooting an eight-under 64 for an overall 15-under 129 to go up the leaderboard for the first time over the weekend.
He had been on song for the best part of two days and the three-time Race to Dubai champion could have grabbed it by the scruff of the neck but didn't quite have the rub of the green in the third round.
After starting the tournament without a blemish and just one bogey in the second round, perhaps playing 25 holes in a day, caught up with McIlroy.
He had two bogeys, both coming on the front nine as he shockingly went one-over. But the former world No.1 responded with an eagle at the start of his return journey and two birdies to salvage it and put himself back in contention.
Meanwhile, the cut was applied at five-under, one of the lowest cuts in the history of the Dubai Classics after the three-under in 2001, 2007 and 2013.
And there were a few former champions who failed to make it to the business end of the tournament.
South African Ernie Els, the record holder with three Classic victories, missed out and so did Scotsman Colin Montgomerie, the 1996 champion.
Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, who won here in 2011, also missed the cut and so did Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. The Dane was a winner here in 2001.
Also missing the cut was 2016 champion and Masters winner Englishman Danny Willett. India's SSP Chawrasia and Dubai-based Indian amateur Rayhan Thomas too failed to make it.
james@khaleejtimes.com



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