Rory McIlroy had a decision to make. From the back fringe on the par-5 18th hole at Emirates Golf Club on Saturday, the Irishman had 45 feet to the pin and would normally pitch his ball. But the lie was just tricky enough that McIlroy opted for his putter.
Smart choice. McIlroy rolled his ball perfectly and it dropped into the hole for a stunning eagle to accentuate a charging 63 that put him within two shots of Cameron Young’s lead heading into the final round of the DP World Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic. Young could only shoot a one-under 71 that included a double bogey and stands at 14 under, two ahead of McIlroy and Poland’s Adrian Meronk (70).
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“Obviously, a huge bonus for something like that to go in,” said McIlroy, who started the day 10 shots off the lead.
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McIlroy’s round was especially impressive, considering no one else in the field shot better than 67. He started with seven birdies over the first 13 holes. The World No. 2 shot a combined three over on the front nine over the first two rounds, but blistered the outward half in the third round with five birdies.
“I just thought if I could play the front nine better. I’ve played the front nine a little scrappily the last couple days,” said McIlroy. “I thought if I could get off to a good start—I was a couple under through three—and if I could pick one or two more up from that tough stretch from [Nos.] 5 through 9, and I ended up picking 3 up, birdieing [Nos.] 7, 8 and 9, which was fantastic. And then just kept it going into the back nine.”
While McIlroy goes for his 17th DP World Tour title, Young, the 26-year-old New York native, is trying to secure his first major tour win. Young won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2021 and last season notched five top-10s and lost in the final of the WGC-Dell Match Play.
McIlroy eagled the par-5 18th and had seven birdies over his first 13 holes – no dropped shots on the day. He posted the clubhouse lead and then watched as no one else in the field shot better than 67.
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com