Dubai: A wonderful eagle on the 10th from Rory McIlroy allowed him to forget his Day 2 blues and surge back into contention in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Saturday in the UAE capital.
The Northern Irishman amazingly holed out from the rough halfway down the fairway to get his name back to the top of a leaderboard that saw Englishman Tyrrell Hatton hold a five-stroke lead when the day’s play began on Saturday.
The competition was playing catch-up after heavy fog on Friday meant the tee-offs were delayed by three hours. The knock-on affect led to many players — including the leaders — completing their second rounds on Saturday morning. Hatton’s overnight lead was reduced to one shot by Rafa Cabrera Bello with four birdies early on, and Hatton bogeyed the 17th to finish his round on four-under. Cabrera Bello (67) was alone in second place on 10-under. Tied for third were Nacho Elvira (68), Lucas Herbert (68) and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy (72), on eight-under.
But the best was yet to come as the third round got under way.
“I wish I would have shot a few lower but I’m still sort of right in there and obviously a lot of golf left to play,” McIlroy said after he walked off having completed his second round. “Regroup and get ready to go for the third round.”
Regroup he did, and his brilliant eagle was complemented by five birdies to offset two bogeys and reclaim the top spot he held after his opening-round 65.
Hatton suffered an up-an-down day, as that second-round blip was accompanied by bogeys on the fifth and seventh in his third round as all the players were forced into a quick turnaround to get the day’s play back on track. He had a wonderful chance to take over at the top on the 18th as he had an eagle putt, but a loose shot meant he three-putted for par and hand control over to McIlroy, who is chasing his fist-ever win at Abu Dhabi, despite a decade of near-misses.
McIlroy himself had a wobble on the last, but kept his cool to hole out from distance and take a one-stroke lead going into the final day.
Scotland’s Marc Warren quietly moved into contention as his 68 moved him into fourth, alongside American David Lipsky on 10-under par, one behind two-time winner Tommy Fleetwood, who holds third spot on his own.
Cabrera Bello had a disappointing third-round 73 to sit sixth on his own on nine-under.
So it is a British 1-2-3 so far, but given the way this tournament has swung, you cannot count out anyone inside the top 10.
-13 Rory McIlroy (NIR) 64 72 67
-12 Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 65 68 71
-11 Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 71 67 67
-10 David Lipsky (USA) 72 66 68
Marc Warren (SCO) 72 66 68
-9 Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP) 67 67 73
-8 Jason Scrivener (AUS) 67 70 71
-7 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (RSA) 71 71 67
George Coetzee (RSA) 70 71 68
Mikko Korhonen (FIN) 69 69 71
Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 69 72 68
Wade Ormsby (AUS) 69 70 70
Chris Paisley (ENG) 72 68 69
Matt Wallace (ENG) 68 70 71
Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR) 66 71 72