Rory McIlroy heads into Monday’s final round in a strong position to win a third Dubai Desert Classic title after firing a sensational third round 65 to open up a three-shot lead.
The world no.1 began the day two shots behind the halfway co-leaders, but opened his third round with four successive birdies to hit the front at Emirates Golf Club.
The 2009 and 2015 champion was caught at the top after making eight straight pars from the fifth, but bounced back with a hat-trick of birdies at 13, 14 and 15 before another gain on the 17 took McIlroy four clear.
But after hitting his approach at the 18th into the water, he finished with his only bogey of the day to go into the clubhouse on 15 under, three ahead of Englishmen Dan Bradbury and Callum Shinkwin.
Reigning Joburg Open champion Bradbury, playing alongside McIlroy on Sunday, made five birdies in his 68, while two-time DP World Tour winner Shinkwin fired five birdies on the back nine in his 67.
Last week’s winner Victor Perez was among the seven-strong group another shot back on 11 under after his bogey-free 66.
Speaking after the round, McIlroy said: “I felt like the good golf came in sort of two bursts today, and then the rest of it was okay. I held it together. I still don’t feel quite in control of my game, but today was much better than yesterday, so that was a positive.
“I love this golf course. I love this tournament. I’ve won here a couple of times. I don’t think I’ve ever won in my first start of the year, so tomorrow is a nice opportunity to try to do something that I’ve never done before.”