|Tiger Woods of the U.S. tees off on the third hole during the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament February 12, 2011. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)
DUBAI - On a windy Saturday afternoon, just three of the final 24 players to tee off broke par at the Dubai Desert Classic.
One of those players, Anders Hansen, posted a one-under 71 to move into a share of the lead after three rounds. He was joined at eight-under-par 208 by Thomas Aiken (74) and second-round leader Rory McIlroy (75).
Two-time winner Tiger Woods managed an even-par 72 in the third round and is tied for fourth place at minus-seven. Among those tied with Woods is Alvaro Velasco, who fired a seven-under 65 at the Emirates Golf Club before the wind picked up. Velasco improved 54 places after making the cut on the number.
Woods and Velasco were joined in fourth by Alvaro Quiros (68), Brett Rumford (72), Fredrik Andersson Hed (69), Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (72) and Sergio Garcia (75), who led most of the round until making a double-bogey on the 17th.
World No. 1 Lee Westwood carded a 72 and stands at five-under-par 211 after 54 holes. Martin Kaymer, the second-ranked player in the world, faltered to a four-over 76 to slide into a share of 47th at even-par 216.
Garcia took over the lead early in the round when he birdied No. 3 for the third straight day. He remained atop the leaderboard until the 17th.
The Spaniard had two birdies and three bogeys between the fifth and 14th and kept the lead the whole time. At the 17th, he stumbled to a double-bogey to fall one back to minus-seven. Garcia parred the last to end there.
That left Hansen, Aiken and McIlroy tied for the lead.
Hansen, who played alongside Woods, opened with a birdie on the first. He stumbled to bogeys on the fourth and fifth, then climbed to eight-under with birdies 10 and 13 before parring the final five holes to get in first at minus-eight.
Aiken and McIlory were paired in the final group. Aiken had three bogeys and nine pars through the first 12 holes. He was as many as three strokes behind Garcia after his bogey on No. 9. Aiken's lone birdie, which came on the 14th, got him back to eight-under. He parred out from the 15th.
McIlroy, who also led after the first round, bogeyed each of the first three holes to slide two strokes behind Garcia. Another bogey on No. 7 left McIlroy at minus-seven and he picked up his first birdie at the ninth.
Around the turn, McIlroy tripped to the final bogey of his round on No. 11. He atoned for that error with a birdie on No. 12, then posted six straight pars to close out his round.
"The conditions were a lot different and I got off to a rough start, but I thought I steadied the ship really well," stated McIlroy. "To be four-over after seven and play the last 11 holes in one-under is a pretty good effort."
Woods looked to be out of the tournament at the turn, but he clawed his way back into contention. He opened with back-to-back bogeys to dip to minus-six.
After four consecutive pars, Woods stumbled to a bogey on the eighth after finding sand with his second shot. Things got worse on the ninth, where he struggled to a double-bogey. That left Woods at three-under, eight strokes behind Garcia.
Woods got those three strokes back with an eagle on the 10th and a birdie on the 11th. He birdied No. 15 to get back within three of Garcia. After tripping to a bogey on 16, Woods closed with a birdie at the last to end one back.
"I'm still in the ballgame. There are a bunch of guys there with a chance, and with the weather tomorrow you never know," Woods said. "If we get [wind] like this tomorrow it will be a heck of a task, but it will be a lot of fun."
Stephen Gallacher (71) and Michael Hoey (73) are just two strokes off the lead at six-under-par 210. Westwood is one of eight players at minus-five.
Hansen, Gallacher and Andersson Hed were the three players in the last 12 groups that broke par Saturday.
NOTES: Hansen is a three-time winner on the European Tour ... McIlroy's win at this event in 2009 was his only tour title and Aiken is winless on the European Tour ... Velasco, who topped the European Challenge Tour money list last year, had seven birdies in a bogey-free round and he has played the last 46 holes without a bogey ... Raphael Jacquelin had the third hole-in-one of the tournament, joining David Howell and Keith Horne with aces this week.