ABU DHABI — Rory McIlroy will take a one shot lead in to the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, with a thrilling final day battle ahead as he goes in search of a first Rolex Series victory.
The four-time Major winner recorded a five under par round of 67 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to get to 13 under par and reclaim the lead he relinquished to Ryder Cup teammate Tyrrell Hatton at the conclusion of the second round.
After starting the week with a sparkling 64 to top the leaderboard in the opening event of the 2021 season, the Northern Irishman needed a birdie on Saturday morning to sign for a level par 72 as the delayed second round was completed, and he was three shots off the lead after 36 holes.
But McIlroy roared back to come within touching distance of a first win at an event where he has been runner up four times, carding an eagle and five birdies to move one shot clear of three-time Rolex Series winner Hatton, with double Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner Tommy Fleetwood a shot further back.
American David Lipsky and Scot Marc Warren are at ten under par after a pair of 68s, one shot ahead of Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, with Australia’s Jason Scrivener at eight under.
At the end of day three, McIlroy said: “Today was a little better. It’s so blustery and it’s a different type of golf than we’re used to playing here in Abu Dhabi where there’s usually not much wind.
“I thought I did well today. Obviously had that big stroke of luck on ten, the ball hitting the pin and going in. It was going over the green and was going to be left with a tricky up-and-down for par.
“Sometimes that’s what you need in golf tournaments to be in contention and to end up winning is those little strokes of luck every now and again.”
Looking ahead to the final day with McIlroy and Fleetwood in contention, Hatton added: “It’s a pretty cool group to be a part of tomorrow. I’m sure the standard of golf will be pretty good and hoping that I can play well and give myself a chance to win.
“It was a difficult day, today. The conditions were really tough for the whole day. I’m pretty disappointed to be honest. I feel like coming back in this morning, I didn’t finish off my round too well and I didn’t actually do anything too wrong. Round three, I just felt like I had nothing really go my way.”
Earlier in the day, Alexander Levy produced a stunning hole-in-one on the 163-yard par three 15th hole to win a brand-new BMW M850i coupe car valued at AED367,000 (approximately €82,552).
Starting on the back nine, the Frenchman began his round with birdies on ten and 12 before the stunning ace on 15 lead to wild celebrations on the tee.
The 30-year-old struck his nine iron straight at the 15th pin which bounced twice before rolling straight into the hole making him one car richer as the first player to shoot a hole-in-one during the 2021 tournament.
In the morning, UAE’s No. 1 golfer Ahmad Skaik completed his second round steadily but failed to make the cut of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
First staged in 2006, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is hosted at the iconic Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the 16th consecutive year from Jan. 21-24, 2021, with a prize fund of $8 million and 8,000 Race to Dubai points available. — SG