'Rejuvenated' McIlroy one behind after a 65

Hope Soto
January 21, 2018

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

Playing in his first event since calling an early end to his injury-plagued and winless season in October past year, four-time major champion McIlroy came into the third round three shots behind Ryder Cup partner Pieters after following up Thursday's 69 with a sparkling 66 on Friday.

The Northern Irishman had nudged his way up the leaderboard with a 66 on Friday after an opening 69 and he continued to make gradual process on the front nine in the third round with three birdies.

"I always struggle to read these greens, the color of them, and I feel like I'm hitting good putts and they are just sliding by the edges", McIlroy said. "Not just for this week but for the rest of the season, as well".

"It would mean a lot". The first three days of this event have been straight out of a postcard, but the wind is expected to pump on Sunday.

He said: "I'll probably never play with two better players". It's felt like a while since I've won and just to give myself these chances; I gave myself a chance at the end of the year [in the British Masters] at Close House and wasn't able to do it. Paul Dunne played too well for me.

"I'm happy with my game and that's just what I've got to go out and do tomorrow".

"I felt really comfortable, really relaxed out there", he added. He's played clean, strong golf and looks much crisper with the wedges and putter than he has in a long time.

The ideal way to bounce back from his only dropped shot of the day at the previous hole, that gave Gallacher a three-under 69 and a seven-under total after 54 holes to sit joint-30th.

Rory Mc Ilroy is one shot off the lead with a round to play in Abu Dhabi
MATTHEW LEWIS GETTY Rory Mc Ilroy is one shot off the lead with a round to play in Abu Dhabi

Pieters has led throughout most of the last two days, but he needed a slick save at the last on Saturday to retain a share of the 54-hole lead (more on that in a minute).

It all leaves it delicately poised for an exciting Sunday finish.

"I know this course very well", Casey said.

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

Pieters went ahead once more on 16, but could only find a greenside bunker in three on the par five last and was unable to match Fisher's bogey, with Pieters signing for a 67 and Fisher carding a 65. I won't be surprised at all if he wins again on Sunday.

But he somehow dropped nearly an equal number of shots during the course of play, with four bogeys recorded to sign off at two-under 70 for an overall par-5, seven shots behind leader Thomas Pieters.

Tommy Fleetwood - the defending champion and last year's Race to Dubai victor - also remains in touch on 15 under alongside Matt Fitzpatrick, who made nine birdies in his first 12 holes on his way to a stunning 63.

Fitzpatrick carded a nine-under-par 63 to surge into contention on the penultimate day.

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Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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