Rory McIlroy in contention ahead of Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship final round

The Northern Irishman continued to make big strides up the leaderboard on day three

Saturday 20 January 2018 15:29
Rory McIlroy is in outstanding form
Rory McIlroy is in outstanding form

Rory McIlroy will begin the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship one shot behind co-leaders Thomas Pieters and Ross Fisher after producing a sensational 65 on Saturday.

Playing in his first event since calling an early end to his injury-plagued and winless season in October last year, four-time major champion McIlroy came into the third round three shots behind Ryder Cup partner Pieters after following up Thursday's 69 with a sparkling 66 on Friday.

And the Northern Irishman continued to make big strides up the leaderboard on day three, carding eight birdies and a solitary bogey to get to 16 under par and close the gap to a single stroke.

After his round, McIlroy told Sky Sports Golf: "I putted really well and hit the ball very well.

"So all in all, it was another great round and another really good confidence builder - not just for this week but for the rest of the season, as well."

McIlroy has an impressive record at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, with four second-placed finishes to his name.

And he would love to go one better this year.

He added: "It would mean a lot. I've had a lot of close calls here, I think about six top threes or something like that.

"I've never won my first start back out. I was close last year in South Africa, Stormy (Graeme Storm) beat me in a play-off.

"I'm excited to get back on the horse and give myself another chance tomorrow."

Rory McIlroy teeing off at the 18th

After firing five birdies and no bogeys in his first 17 holes, Pieters produced a good par save at the last to remain at the summit.

And Fisher joined the Belgian on 17 under after closing his seven-under-par 65 with a birdie at the 18th.

Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood and fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick were in a tie for fourth place on 15 under.

Fitzpatrick produced the lowest round of the day, carding 10 birdies and one bogey in his superb 63.

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