McIlroy: "17 holes were very good." Kamran Jebreili
Glory Rory

McIlroy takes commanding lead ahead of Monday finish at Dubai Desert Classic

World number one leads by three after a seven-under-par 65 on Sunday.

RORY MCILROY WILL take a three-shot lead into Monday’s finish at the Dubai Desert Classic — despite dumping his second into the water guarding the 18th green on Sunday.

After the bogey on his last hole, the world number one signed for a third round seven-under-par 65.

That helped McIlroy move to 15-under ahead of Monday’s weather-delayed conclusion — three clear of English duo Callum Shinkwin (67) and Dan Bradbury (68), who are tied for second at 12-under.

For McIlroy, it was a sense of deja vu as last year he found the same water on the 18th before eventually losing out to Viktor Hovland.

“I’m always going to hit good enough shots to make birdies and hole some putts but keeping the mistakes off your card is the secret for me,” said McIlroy, who is primed to take his third victory at the tournament.

He added: “I made one bogey out there today, which I’m pretty frustrated about. You know, the other 17 holes were very good.

“Overall, it was much better today. I need to go out and do the same tomorrow.”

The four-time major champion was excited about securing a win in his first start of the season for the first time in his career.

“I have a nice opportunity to start the year with a win, and try to build off of that.”

McIlroy started the day at eight-under par after an indifferent second round of 70, but four birdies in the first four holes lifted him to a share of the lead.

He then made eight straight pars, before another stretch of four birdies in five holes. The finale was a disappointing bogey.

McIlroy is guaranteed to retain his place as world number one after Spain’s Jon Rahm came up short in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour.

Rahm, currently ranked third, needed a third place or better to have a chance of dislodging McIlroy.

He commented: “I’ve sort of sat at home watching Jon Rahm tear it up for the last sort of six weeks, and I felt like coming here, no matter what happened last night in San Diego, I want to try to come and play like the best player in the world.”

Organisers were forced into staging the fourth round on Monday after a deluge caused havoc at the start of the tournament.

– © AFP 2023

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