Dubai: Rory McIlroy will begin the final round of the DP World Tour Championship with a one-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield as he looks to become the first player to win the season-ending event on three occasions.
McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Jon Rahm and defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick have all won the Dubai finale twice, but McIlroy put himself in pole position to pull away from that pack with a third round 67 over the Earth course.
After making a bogey at the first following a wayward tee shot, the Northern Irishman superbly bounced back with back-to-back birdies, before sinking a 12 foot double breaker on the sixth to move into a share of the lead. The former World No.1 picked up two more shots at the ninth and 11th to move into the outright lead, while a sixth birdie of the day saw him pull away by two shots.
Blemish to his card
The Ulsterman added another blemish to his card on the 17th after striking his tee shot into the rocks, which could have been a whole lot worse with his ball seemingly destined for the water.
The four-time Major winner remarkably nearly made par but had to settle for bogey, before picking the shot straight back up on the last to set the clubhouse target of 14 under par.
“I’m right where I want to be,” said McIlroy. “I want to be contending on Sundays in golf tournaments and feel like I’m back to playing the way I should and the way that will get me back contending. I’m excited. I’m excited to go out there and try to pick up another one.
“After the bogey on one, responded well with birdies on two and three, ended up turning at three under par and then back nine was good. I got off to a really nice start on the back nine. I gave myself a good chance on 14 and 16 and didn’t convert those. Then bogey on 17, which in the end was a good bogey.
“I just thought it was important to make birdie at the last to get into the final group as well. I knew that putt was to get into the final group and I wanted to do that, so it was a nice way to finish.”
Horsfield, who had shared the lead overnight, looked set to join McIlroy on 14 under but dropped a shot on the 18th to fall one behind.
The Englishman had started the day fast with a birdie at the second but a run of nine pars and a bogey saw him fall behind the leaders, before he clawed himself back into contention with a brilliant run from the 14th.
Share of lead
He holed a 60 footer on that hole for eagle and sunk a birdie putt from 23 feet at the next before a brilliant second to six feet at the 16th gave him a share of the lead. The bogey at the last was a setback but he secured a spot alongside McIlroy in tomorrow’s final pairing.
“It’s going to be a blast,” said Horsfield on being paired with McIlroy. “I’ve played with Rory a few times. He’s a good dude and I’m really looking forward to it. Just try to play good golf again and see what happens.”
Robert MacIntyre and Alexander Bjork sit a shot further back in share of third, while Shane Lowry, Collin Morikawa, John Catlin and Joachim Hansen, winner of last week’s Aviv Dubai Championship, finished on 11 under par in fifth.