Monday 17 December 2018

WATCH: Rory McIlroy admits he gave himself a dressing down as he stays in contention in Dubai

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 27: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on from the 2nd hole tee during day three of Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on January 27, 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 27: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on from the 2nd hole tee during day three of Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on January 27, 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Rory McIlroy continued his sparkling start to his year with another fine round at the Dubai Desert Classic and he will head into the final round on Sunday one shot behind leader Haotong Li.

McIlroy shot into contention with a stunning round of 64 on Friday and he was in fine touch once again as he produced some sparkling shots and a fine birdie on the last to fire a third round of 68.

Alexander Levy - who enjoyed a hole-in-one at the fourth - and Haydn Porteous finished the day at 17 under, with Andy Sullivan a shot further back and David Horsey on 15 under. Tyrrell Hatton was among a group of eight players on 14 under.

McIlroy began another day of low scoring by completing his fog-delayed second round with three successive birdies.

That gave him a two-shot lead at the halfway point but he was unable to maintain that momentum at the start of his third round.

Two bogeys on the front nine took him to the turn in 36 but an eagle and three birdies coming home kept him firmly in contention.

McIlroy could not match the hugely impressive leader Li, who continued his blistering long hitting as he outscored his playing partner to storm to the top of the leader board on -8.

"The back nine was good, front nine no so much as I made some sloppy mistakes," said McIlroy. "I will need something a little lower that 68 tomorrow to win because Li is playing great.

"They set the golf course up pretty tough and I struggled to get momentum going, but I made a good two-putt on nine and had a little talk to myself and the back nine was much better. I told myself to 'sort my s*** out'!

"I feel like my game is in good shape and if I can hit the ball on the fairway and give myself chances to stop it on the greens, I will do okay."

Li and McIlroy will be paired together for a second day in succession in the final round, with the Chinese star needing to hold his nerve once again on Sunday.

"It was my first time playing with Rory and I enjoyed it," declared Li. "Now I have to do it again tomorrow and try to win the event. I have never been in this kind of position, but my game is in good shape and hopefully I shoot a low score."

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