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Rory McIlroy shoots to the front in Dubai as Shane Lowry falls down the leaderboard

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Rory McIlroy had a good third round in Dubai. Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Rory McIlroy had a good third round in Dubai. Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Rory McIlroy had a good third round in Dubai. Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Rory McIlroy insists he's right where he wants to be after he escaped disaster at the 17th, then birdied the last to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Seeking his third win on the Earth Course at Jumeriah Golf Estates and a 15th European Tour win that would see him draw level with Pádraig Harrington, the world No 8 carded a five-under 67 to lead England's Sam Horsfield by a shot on 14-under par.

Shane Lowry held the solo lead through seven holes, but while he double-bogeyed the eighth and dropped another shot at the 10th, he believes he still has a chance with a low final round after a 71 left him tied fifth, three shots behind McIlroy on 11-under.

"I thought I did well considering the start," said McIlroy, who bogeyed the opening hole after hitting a snap-hook into the desert but then birdied the second, third, sixth and ninth to tie for the lead with Lowry and John Catlin.

McIlroy cruised two clear with birdies at the 11th and 13th but almost came unstuck at the par-three 17th, where his tee shot stopped on rocks lining the edge of the lake.

Rather than head for the drop zone, he risked disaster and played from the rocks, scooting over the green from where he almost chipped in for a miraculous par.

"Yeah, Harry was pleading with me not to hit it, 'Just go back, we can make four, we can make four at the last,'" McIlroy revealed.

"It was reminiscent -- you guys might have it on tape, I missed the second hole in Boston right a couple years ago when I was playing with Tiger, and I was trying to hit it out of the hazard, similar sort of thing and went straight (back) into the water. Harry and I were both thinking of that when we were looking at it.

"I just thought if I got enough on it, hit a descending blow on it would basically hop up and do what it did. I thought the best I could do was in that far trap, but it just stopped short of that.

"Then I thought I made three with the chip shot, and I said to Collin (Morikawa) walking up the last, 'I don't know whose three would have been luckier, yours or mine.' He made a lucky one yesterday.

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"But it was an important four. Kept somewhat of the momentum going, and hit two good shots on the last and nice to make a four there."

The world No 8 will be going for his third win of a rollercoaster year, and he's pleased with his position.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it," said the Co Down man, whose short game and putting has been outstanding. "I'm right where I want to be.

"I want to be contending on Sundays in golf tournaments and feel like I'm back to playing the way I should and the way that will get me back contending. I'm excited. I'm excited to go out there and try to pick up another one."

The winner on Sunday will take home $3 million, and Horsfield is not fazed by the prospect of playing with McIlroy.

"It's going to be a blast," he said. "I've played with Rory a few times. He's a good dude, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll just try to play good golf again and see what happens."

Scotland's Robert Macintyre shot 67 and Sweden's Alexander Bjork a 69 to lie tied third, just two shots behind McIlroy on 14-under with Lowry in a four-way tie for fifth with Catlin, JB Hansen and Race to Dubai leader Collin Morikawa.

Tied for the overnight lead with Catlin and Horsfield, Lowry birdied the par-five second and seventh to take the solo lead on 12-under but made sloppy double-bogey six at the eighth and then dropped another shot at the 10th, where he had to take a penalty drop after driving into the trees.

He battled back well, however, knocking in a 40 footer for birdie at the 11th before getting up and down from 125 yards for par at the 12th.

While he birdied the par-five 14th, he missed chances at the 13th, 15th, 17th and 18th, where he lipped out from seven feet.

"I fought hard today, but then I had an awful middle of the round, and I felt I did really well to fight my way back into it", Lowry said.

"I don't know how that par putt on the last hole missed, but I still have a chance to win the tournament.

"Obviously, I am going to need a low score tomorrow. I am playing well enough, but for the three holes in the middle of the round today, I was pretty solid.”


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