Rory McIlroy firmly in contention in Dubai after late surge

The 28-year-old finished an up and down round with three consecutive birdies for a 68 and a two-round total of 15-under 129

Saturday 27 January 2018 13:08
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Rory McIlroy tees off on the eighth hole
Rory McIlroy tees off on the eighth hole

Rory McIlroy will go into the final round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic one shot off the lead after shooting a third-round 68 on Saturday.

The Northern Irishman trails China's Li Haotong, who carded a 64 to reach 20 under par.

Alexander Levy - who enjoyed a hole-in-one at the fourth - and Haydn Porteous finished the day at 17 under, with Andy Sullivan a shot further back and David Horsey on 15 under. Tyrrell Hatton was among a group of eight players on 14 under.

McIlroy began another day of low scoring by completing his fog-delayed second round with three successive birdies. That gave him a two-shot lead at the halfway point but he was unable to maintain that momentum at the start of his third round.

Two bogeys on the front nine took him to the turn in 36 but an eagle and three birdies coming home kept him firmly in contention.

"The back nine was good, the front nine not so much," said McIlroy, a two-time winner of the tournament, on Sky Sports. "I made a couple of sloppy mistakes on the front. I feel like if I play my game I'll be able to shoot something a bit lower tomorrow, and I think I'll need to shoot something lower to be able to win.

"Li played really well out there and if he continues to play like that I'll need to shoot something similar to what he shot today."

Li, who began his third round three shots behind McIlroy, made a confident start with four birdies in his first eight holes. Three more followed in the space of four holes from the turn and he finished with another at the last.

"When I won (before), it was always (coming) from really (far) behind to win events," Li said. "I've never been in this position but I'm happy to see my game in this shape.

McIlroy is in good shape in Dubai

"Hopefully I will make some birdies tomorrow and shoot some low scores."

Levy, buoyed by his early ace, battled with Li for top spot on the leaderboard amid a run of five successive birdies but bogeys on the 15th and 16th saw him drop back. Despite that, the Frenchman still signed for a 65 after a birdie on the 18th. Porteous recorded birdies on the last three holes to match his score.

Sullivan's 63 was the lowest third-round score but it was a difficult day for early leader Jamie Donaldson. The Welshman, two off the lead at halfway, carded a three-over-par 75 to slip to 10 under.

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