Rory McIlroy was hoping to cut his overnight deficit in half and get within five shots of the lead entering the final round of the Hero Dubai Desert.
A brilliant, Saturday 63, however, has him trailing leader Cameron Young by only two with 18 holes to play.
McIlroy eagled the par-5 18th and had seven birdies over his first 13 holes – no dropped shots on the day. He posted the clubhouse lead and then watched as no one else in the field shot better than 67.
Young carded a 1-under 71. After making double on No. 7 and bogey at the eighth, he played the back in 3 under to finish at 14 under for the tournament. McIlroy is tied with Adrian Meronk (70) at 12 under. They are the only player double-digits under par.
“I just thought if I could play the front nine better. I've played the front nine a little scrappily the last couple days,” said McIlroy, who was 3 over on the front nine in the first two rounds combined. "I thought if I could get off to a good start, I was a couple under through three, and I thought if I could pick one or two more up from that tough stretch from [Nos.] 5 through 9, and I ended up picking 3 up, birdieing [Nos.] 7, 8 and 9, which was fantastic. And then just kept it going into the back nine.”
At the last, McIlroy was off the green in two, in the back of the fringe.
“I was walking up with the putter in my hand, and as I got closer to the ball, I saw that there was a lot of fringe to go through. And I said to [caddie] Harry, like I sort of want to chip it but the lie wasn't great. I could just see the club bouncing,” McIlroy said.
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“I was like, I'll just sort of, I guess, ride my luck with the putter, and it came out perfectly. And as soon as it got on the green, it actually wasn't as fast as I thought it was going to be once it got on the green. And it was tracking perfectly. Obviously, a huge bonus for something like that to go in.”
Having earned a spot in Sunday’s final group, McIlroy will now be chasing his fourth career tournament title and his second in a row at the Emirates Golf Club.
Young, though not pleased with his performance in Round 3, was looking forward to the finale, which will also prominently include Meronk, the 2023 DPWT players’ choice for Player of the Year.
“I think it will be fun,” Young said. “They are both very good players, and it's a good golf course. So I've played well this week and I'm looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what I can do.”