ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Rickie Fowler birdied three of the remaining seven holes in his third round Sunday to break free of a congested leading group and take a two-shot lead at the Abu Dhabi Championship.
Fowler shot a 7-under 65 to move to 13-under par, and was in good shape for his fourth victory in nine months.
Sixty of the 73 players to make the cut finished their third rounds Sunday after morning fog disrupted the playing schedule on Friday and Saturday. Joost Luiten of the Netherlands eagled No. 18 to move into second place on 11 under, one shot ahead of Rory McIlroy (70), Thomas Pieters (64), Matthew Baldwin (67), Branden Grace (66) and Byeong-Hun An (69).
McIlroy was with Fowler in a five-way tie for the lead on 10 under when play was suspended for darkness on Saturday. Resuming on No. 10, McIlroy bogeyed two of his first three holes but recovered with birdies on Nos. 15 and 17. He squandered a chance to be in the final group with Fowler when he drove into the bunker at No. 18 — a par 5 playing easy on Sunday — and missed an 8-foot putt for birdie.
Top-ranked Jordan Spieth, who finished his third round in near-darkness Saturday, was six shots behind Fowler.
Wearing high-top golf shoes and ankle-tight jogger pants, Fowler has been making a fashion statement in the Middle East this week. With his play on the course, he is also sending a message to golf's so-called "Big Three" of Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day early in 2016.
Fowler went under the radar after opening with a 70 in a high-profile marquee group for the first two rounds with Spieth and McIlroy. Fowler ranked outside the top 100 for putting after Round 1, but he said he felt good on the greens in his bogey-free third round that featured seven birdies.
The No. 6-ranked American was sharing the lead with five other players when he sank a long birdie putt from at least 30 feet on No. 13. A 12-footer on No. 16 put him two strokes in front, and a tap-in at No. 18 briefly gave Fowler a three-shot lead.
"The game feels good and I'm excited for the challenge ahead," said Fowler, who tied for 66th in his first appearance in Abu Dhabi, in 2015. "I feel more comfortable this year."
Fowler won three times in 2015 — at The Players Championship, the Scottish Open and the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Luiten would have been closer to Fowler had his ball not spun back into the water on No. 12, his second hole after resuming Sunday. He made a double-bogey there and also bogeyed No. 14, but picked up four shots in his last four holes.