Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is just one shot off the pace after an incredible day of scoring at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, with Paul Dunne a further three strokes behind.
Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters forced their way into a share of the lead after the third round of the competition, with Co. Down-born McIlroy hot on their heels heading into the final round on Sunday, it was a complete roulette on Saturday it was like playing on Bcasino and trying to win every spin.
Respective scores of 65 and 67 took Fisher and Pieters to 17 under par, while McIlroy carded his own 65 to move into third place in his first competitive tournament in over 100 days after a much-publicised break from the game.
McIlroy, who may not be fully match-fit following his period of rest from golf, showed the sharpness of his ball-striking and efficiency in his overall game, elements that will certainly have caught the attention of his rivals.
Speaking after the completion of his third round, McIlroy said: “It would mean a lot to win. I’ve had a lot of close calls here, I think about six top threes or something like that. I’ve never won on my first start back out. I was close last year in South Africa, but Stormy beat me in a playoff. So it would mean a lot. It’s felt like a while since I’ve won. I gave myself a chance at the end of the year at Close House and wasn’t able to do it. Paul Dunne played too well for me. I’m excited to get back on the horse and give myself another chance tomorrow.”
Discussing his game, the 13-time European Tour winner stated:
“I said all week, I felt like this is where my game was in practice, but it’s always different trying to go from the range on to the golf course, and even in practice rounds. I felt like I was playing well but it’s still different whenever you get a card in your hand and you’re in competitive play.”
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood has an opportunity to emulate Martin Kaymer and record back-to-back Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship victories after the Englishman posted a third round 67 to move to 15 under alongside countryman Matt Fitzpatrick heading into the final day.
Fitzpatrick produced a quite stunning third round performance, birdieing seven of his first nine holes to get to the turn in 29. Another two birdies – on the tenth and 11th holes – had the 23 year old thinking he could shoot the European Tour’s first 59, but in the end he settled for the lowest round of the week so far, a nine under 63 which saw him join Fleetwood on 15 under.
Paul Dunne, from Greystones, Co. Wicklow, shot a third round score of 65 to add to his previous rounds of 68 and 70, leaving the 2017 British Masters winner on 203, 4 shots off the leaders.