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Lee Surges to the Fore in Abu Dhabi


Craig Lee continued his outstanding play in the Middle East. The 36-year-old Scot posted a 3-under 69 Saturday to forge a two-stroke lead in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. The $2.7 million European Tour event began Thursday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates.

Lee, in search of his first European Tour win, stands at 12-under 204, two strokes ahead of India's Gaganjeet Bhullar (66) and Phil Mickelson, who soared into contention after a 9-under 63.

After opening with a 73 and a 70, Mickelson, the 2013 British Open champion, carded nine birdies, an eagle and two bogeys to match Danny Willett for the tournament's low score.

"It's exciting," said Lee of his final-round chances. "The quality of the players behind me is nothing I have been used to before. I can't control what they are going to do, I just have to go out and play the best I can.

"I can look back on last year when Jamie Donaldson won (holding off the likes of Justin Rose) and say it's possible and fairy tales do happen."

Three strokes behind Lee are Spain's Pablo Larrazabal (68) and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy (70), while four back are 36-hole co-leader Rafa Cabrera-Bello (73), Thongchai Jaidee (68), Matthew Baldwin (69), Michael Hoey (68) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (67).

McIlroy could have ended the day only a shot back of Lee but was given a post-round two-stroke penalty for an improper drop from a spectator crossing on the second hole.

After looking at the area from where McIlroy had played his shot, officials determined that his left foot would have been on the white line denoting the crossing, meaning he didn't take full relief and a two-shot penalty was applied to his score, turning his par on the second hole into a double-bogey and his 68 into a 70.

"I'm going to go and hit the gym so hard," the 24-year-old McIlroy said. "I'm going to run myself into the ground to try to get some of the frustration out. There are a lot of stupid rules in golf and this is one of them."

Defending champion Donaldson had a 73 and is well back at 216.

For all the scores, visit http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2014/tournamentid=2014003/leaderboard/index.html.