Rory McIlroyHis short iron play was exemplary, allowing him to shoot 7-under 65 in the third round and gain a 3-stroke advantage at the Dubai Desert Classic on Saturday.
McIlroy, ranked No. 1, made eight birdies in Emirates Golf Club — four consecutive from No. 1, 3, and 4 from No. 13, and another at No. 17 — None of the birdie putsts were higher than 7 feet.
He stated that he drove the ball better today which allowed me to attack and make birdies more effectively. Its not quite there, but its close, but Im making the most out of the good shots Im hitting and putting. Im just playing really efficient, right now, golf.
McIlroy made bogey at No. 5 par-5, giving the chasers some hope. 18, after hitting a fairway club from about 250 yards away, was McIlroys only dropped shot. McIlroy, despite his commanding lead, looked disappointed after missing a par-putt from 8 feet.
The four-time major champion made the same error on the 18th hole of his final round of last years tournament. A birdie would have won the title.
I love this course and this tournament. I have won here a few times, but I dont think that I won on my first start. [of a year]He said, Its possible, he added. Ive given myself the chance to try something Ive never tried before.
McIlroy looked strong as the players on the leaderboard slowed down. Patrick ReedBeing together in Mondays final group, which would have drawn attention to their pretournament spat.
Reed made bogey on the par-4 17th, when his tee shot became stuck up a palm tree while he tried to cut the corner on the dogleg right. The American shot 69, and was fourth in a seven-man team that finished on 11 under. McIlroy was 4 shots behind.
Reed stated, You know what, that tee shot I hit, I didn’t even see those palms. I felt it was on a good tee line, just left the green and I guess that I need to be a bit more right or higher.
It was an unfortunate break, but I hit the line solidly. It was exactly where I was looking. Thats all you have to ask. Every once in a while, youll have bad breaks. You can bounce back from them.
The group on 11 was Frances. Victor Perez(66), was the Abu Dhabi Championship winner.
Spanish player Adri ArnausAfter eight holes, he briefly held the lead at 13 under. However, he lost his lead when he bogeyed No. 9 and made double-bogey at 13th par-5. Arnaus was also among those on 11 under.
After the tournament was cut short by bad weather, play will conclude on Monday.