Rory McIlroy will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the DP World Tour Championship.
The Northern Irishman carded a 67 on day three over the Earth Course to get to 14 under and put himself in pole position to claim a first Rolex Series victory and become the only player to win the Race to Dubai season finale three times.
England’s Sam Horsfield was a shot back after a 69, one clear of Swede Alexander Björk and Scot Robert MacIntyre.
Race to Dubai Rankings leader Collin Morikawa carded a 69 to sit at 11 under and was safely on track to become the first American to win the Harry Vardon Trophy as Europe’s No 1.
Countryman John Catlin, Dane Joachim B Hansen and Ireland’s Shane Lowry were also three shots off the lead.
McIlroy won this event in 2012 and 2015 and another win would not only take his tally of European Tour victories to 15 but also add a Rolex Series triumph to his four Major and three WGC titles.
The 32-year-old’s last European Tour victory was at the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions but he has won twice on the PGA Tour this season – including last month when he beat Morikawa by one shot at the CJ Cup – to move back inside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I’m right where I want to be,” he said. “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.
“After the bogey on 1, I responded well with birdies on 2 and 3, ended up turning at three under par and then the back nine was good. I got off to a really nice start on the back nine. I gave myself a good chance on 14 and 16 and didn’t convert those. Then a bogey on 17, which in the end was a good bogey.
“I just thought it was important to make birdie at the last to get into the final group as well. I knew that putt was to get into the final group and I wanted to do that, so it was a nice way to finish.”
A poor tee shot led to that bogey on the 1st but McIlroy hit back with two putts on the par-five 2nd, an approach to four feet on the 3rd and a 12-foot double breaker on the 6th to move into a share of the lead.
He found a bunker off the tee at the 9th but hit a sensational second to 13 feet to stay in a share of top spot at the turn before he stuck an approach to nine feet at 11th to take the solo lead.
After doing well to save par at the next, he put a tee shot to 14 feet at the par-three 13th and a sixth birdie of the day handed him a two-shot lead.
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Joint overnight leader Horsfield had made a two-putt birdie on the 2nd but broke a run of nine pars with a bogey after missing the green at the 12th.
A 60 footer at the 14th for eagle then started a brilliant run as he holed from 23 feet at the next and put a stunning second to six feet at the 16th to share the lead.
McIlroy failed to make a remarkable save at the par-three 17th after being fortunate to find the rocks off the tee but hit back with an up-and-down on the par-five last and, with Horsfield bogeying the 18th after finding sand off the tee, there was a two-shot swing.
After going birdie bogey on the 2nd and 3rd, MacIntyre holed a remarkable putt from 72 feet on the 4th and a 20-footer with a huge right to left break for an eagle on the 7th before bogeying the ninth.
He then hit two smart approaches into the 10th and 11th, holed from 20 feet on the 12th and made a two-putt birdie on the 14th before bogeying the last after finding the water in a 67.
Bjork holed from 15 feet on the 6th and five feet on the 8th to turn in 34 before a 24-foot putt on the 12th edged him further up the leaderboard.
A birdie on the 14th was then sandwiched by a pair of dropped shots but a gain from six feet after laying up on the last had him signing for a 69.
Morikawa holed a spectacular right-to-lefter on the 6th from 37 feet, adding to an approach to 11 feet at the 1st and a six-footer at the 2nd but closed his round with 12 straight pars.
Hansen carded a 68, two shots better than joint overnight-leaders Catlin and Lowry, to sit a shot ahead of two-time Major-winning German Martin Kaymer and two clear of England’s Marcus Armitage, South African Dean Burmester and American Johannes Veerman.
– Report from europeantour.com