Quiros goes clear as Rory stumbles

Rory McIlroy’s hopes of snatching The Race to Dubai title from Luke Donald suffered a setback on Saturday.

Rory McIlroy’s hopes of snatching The Race to Dubai title from Luke Donald suffered a setback in Saturday’s third round of the UBS Hong Kong Open.

The World No 2, who needs a first or second place finish here this week to have any chance of overhauling Donald at next weeks Race To Dubai, had an unhappy Saturday at the famed Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling and with two front nine bogies and just two back nine birdies, he finished with a disappointing level-par 70 that left him on his overnight 7-under total and alone in 5th place and trailing third-round leader Alvaro Quiros by all of three strokes .

Quiros, who had shared the overnight lead with McIlroy, made no mistakes in a solid, unspectacular round and his three-birdie 67 was enough to keep him out in front heading into Sunday’s final round at 10-under.

It was a close thing though.

A flying Peter Hanson, who posted a day’s best 5-under 65, reeled him in and matched him at 9-under and it took a third birdie by the Spaniard at the 17th to nudge him back into sole possession of the lead.

Korea’s YE Yang, Asia’s first and so far only major winner, and Thailand’s teenaged Pariya Junhasavasdikul were tied for third after they too had fired 65s

McIlroy, one shot back, was alone in 5th place and in turn one shot clear of a five-way tie on 5-under that included joint first round leader David Horsey of England, Frenchman Gregory Havret, Dane Soren Kjeldsen, Australia’s Marcus Fraser and New Zealand’s Danny Lee.

Quiros, despite his lead, came out of the day with mixed feelings.

The five-time European Tour winner said: “I hit the ball great from tee to the green, but my putting was very, very poor.

“Obviously my length (off the tee) is always an advantage. If I’m able to hit the fairway, I have a great chances to make birdies, easy birdies, when the others may be struggling a little bit off the tee and then with their second shots.”

McIlroy started in solid fashion but, after missing a birdie chance on the third, found sand at the par three fourth and saw his par-saving putt from ten feet graze the edge of the hole and stay out.

And worse was to follow.

His drive at the fifth ended behind a tree and, after chipping onto the fairway, his third shot missed the green.

However, he managed to get up and down to limit the damage to a bogey and drop to five under par.

McIlroy then steadied the ship with a string of pars before collecting his first birdie of the day at the 13th and a second the 17th that took him to 70 and kept him in contention for, with his length off the tee and his ability to go lower than most, he can never be written off

“I just didn’t have anything out there today,” he said afterwards. “Mentally I just wasn’t at the races, and struggled to get anything going.

“It was one of those days where nothing much was happening, and it was nice to birdie a couple coming in to keep me in it. I’m only three behind, so if I can get off to a decent start tomorrow, I’m right back in it.”

Ryder Cup teammate Hanson was more than happy with his six birdies and the lone bogey which came on just the second hole and was quickly shrugged away..

“It was nice,” the Swede said. “To sum it up, it was very good putting.

“I had a bit of a slow start making a bogey on the second but from there it was very solid and there were a couple of good bunker shots that saved some pars during the middle part of the round.”

Yang, who also mixed six birdies with a solitary bogey, added: “I’m in a good position, better than being ahead in the first or second round.

“One more day to focus, 18 holes to play. I think my chances are fairly good. There was minimal wind today, so that helped a lot, and my irons and my putter were playing as I’ve always wanted them to do.”

And Junhasavasdikul?

The Thai youngster overcame an awful start that saw him bogey the first hole and double bogey the second with a string of six subsequent birdies.

“I kept telling myself ‘Okay, the round is not over, you made it through to the weekend after playing really bad the last couple of months,'” Junhasavasdikul said.

“Just go out there and enjoy it, just take it one shot at a time and try to make something happen.”

He certainly did and his challenge is another that can’t be ignored.