Oman Open 2019: Kieffer the leader
Generally, overcast conditions with a nip in the breeze is a welcome change in Muscat. Not so, for the past two days when sandstorm and strong winds played spoilsport to the second edition of the Oman Open, an European Tour event, at the Al Mouj Golf.
However, a day after majority of the play was suspended on Friday due to severe sandstorm and strong winds, play resumed on Saturday, much to the relief of players and fans.
Following the conclusion of the delayed second round and having played just three holes in the penultimate round,
Germany's Maximilian Kieffer emerged as leader with a five under par before play was called off for the day due to darkness in the third round on Saturday.
Kiefer was one of the 11 golfers who had completed their second round on Friday itself before sandstorm led to the suspension for the day.
The remainder of the field returned on Saturday morning to complete their rounds with Kieffer's playing partner, Joachim B Hansen, joining the German as second round leader after carding a three under par 69.
More strong winds on Saturday made scoring difficult and Kieffer made a trio of pars in the third round to stay a shot ahead of Hansen, India's Gaganjeet Bhullar and Brandon Stone, who all had completed four holes.
Frenchman Benjamin Hebert, Swede Peter Hanson, Chilean Hugo Leon, Japan's Hideto Tanihara and Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti were then at three under.
None of the field were able to complete round three on Saturday and all of the players will restart at 7.15am on Sunday, with the final group facing 33 holes on a marathon day.
Kieffer, who graduated from the European Challenge Tour in 2012, will be looking for his maiden title on Sunday.
Bhullar bogeyed the first in round three to drop two off the lead and he was soon joined by Hansen who double bogeyed the second to hand Kieffer the lead.
Following the second round, Denmark's Hansen told europeantour.com, “I’m feeling pretty good, I was a bit disappointed with the finish, but it was so tough yesterday [on Friday] when the wind came.
“It changed so much and it was hard to hit good shots and keep the ball low. Three under is a good score with this wind.”
Kieffer, Hansen and first round leader Kurt Kitayama began their third round at 5:10pm with Kitayama giving the course back six shots on his first three holes which included a quadruple bogey on the first, therefore dropping the American to tied 34th on two over par.
Hansen guided his way through the first three at one over par while Kieffer carded three consecutive pars before play was called off for the day.
Stone and Bhullar join Hansen in a share of second place with both players finishing the day on the fourth hole on level par.
The pair had finished their second rounds earlier on Saturday with Bhullar posting an impressive three under par 69 while Stone moved up the leaderboard with a solid two under par 70 in difficult conditions along the coast.
“I’m very pleased; I started off really well yesterday,” said Bhullar before the third round begun.
“Considering the wind and the weather today I made two good birdies on two and three, but then I was unfortunate to drop two shots. Conditions were really tough today. The goal is to stay focused and relaxed and give 100 per cent at the weekend.”
Six players sit two off the pace in fifth place including French duo Victor Dubuisson and Benjamin Hebert while last year’s champion Joost Luiten shares 26th place after a second round five over par 77 dropped him down the leaderboard.