Just two weeks after Padraig Harrington ended his four-year drought, Darren Clarke is threatening to win for the first time in more than three years. Fittingly, he's given himself a chance in the desert.
The 46-year old e shot 64 for the third time in the space of 16 days to surge into contention for Asian Tour's season-ending Dubai Open at The Els Club.
The leading candidate for the 2016 European Ryder Cup captaincy but without a win since he captured The Open at Sandwich 1,253 days ago, Clarke's eight under par effort left him a shot behind a quartet of leaders on nine under par entering the final round.
"I’ve played really well all week," said Clarke, who shot a pair of 64s in the recent Beko Classic in Turkey, a limited field pro-am. "I hit the ball really, really well yesterday, too, and then made a mess of the last hole.
Made no putts and made a mess of the last hole, the ninth yesterday. Today I wanted to go out, play well and keep doing what I’ve been doing. Hit an awful lot of good shots today and holed a couple of putts."
Clarke had just 26 putts and eight single putts in a round that featured two front nine birdie fours and a homeward nine of 30 featuring four birdies and an eagle two at the 16th.
"I hit driver off the tee and just missed the green right down around into a very, very tricky lie in the rough and I hit a beautiful little pitch and lobbed it up there and trickled into the hole," said Clarke.
"I had another chance for eagle on last but left it short but through a bit of a misread more than anything else."
Rather than treating the tournament as an end of season jolly, Clarke says he's in Dubai to compete.
"No, well, I’m here to play," said the 46-year old, who has fallen from 296th to 437th in the world this year. "I’m not here to make up the numbers. You know, especially this past year where my game has been okay but not great. My timing has been off a little bit because of all the weight that I’ve lost. So because of that, it’s taken a bit of time and it’s starting to come back now."
There could be a blanket finish in Dubai with South Africa's Jbe Kruger (64), Korea's Wang Jeung-hun (68) and India's Arjun Atwal (68) and Shiv Kapur (69) leading by a shot on 10 under from another five players — Clarke, Thai pair Chapchai Nirat and Pariya Junhasavadikul, Japan's Daisuke Kataoka, Scotland's Simon Yates and India's Gaganjeet Bhullar
The top 21 players are covered by just three shots but Clarke is not getting ahead of himself and simply hoping to play well again and see where that leaves him.
"I’ll just go and play, try and play the same way as I played today I hope and see what the outcome is," he said. "I played in the Pro Am in Turkey two weeks ago — the Beko Classic, it’s a three round tournament — and I shot two 64s down there on the first day and last day. So I’m playing okay. I’m playing better again which is nice."