McIlroy leads by four in Dubai

Rory McIlroy continued his superb play at the Omega Dubai Desert on Classic on Saturday, opening up a four-shot lead after the third round.

The World No 1 added a third-round 66 to his opening rounds of 66 and 64 at Emirates Golf Club to take his total to 20 under par.

That was four strokes clear of nearest rival Morten Orum Madsen of Denmark, and six strokes clear of third-placed Lee Westwood.

At one point, McIlroy’s lead looked set to be even bigger, as he raced through the front nine in just 30 shots, but a run of eight straight pars from the ninth halted his progress somewhat.

Nevertheless, the Northern Irishman has picked up three wins – two of them majors – and three seconds in his last six European Tour starts, and it would be a brave man to bet against him securing a fourth on Sunday.

Despite the lengthy run of pars, McIlroy avoided a bogey throughout the round, which pleased him.

“To be bogey free again today was important to me, especially when you’re going out with the lead,” said McIlroy.

“Not to make any mistakes makes it that much harder for anyone else – just to get that up and down on the last was big for momentum going into tomorrow.

“I’m very happy. I feel like I could be a little bit more but I’m not going to complain – I’m four ahead going into the final day, so I’ve put myself in a great position to win tomorrow.

“I just have to go and try and play similar golf to the way I have the first three days.

“I’ve been in this position many times before and I know the pitfalls that are waiting out there; it’s just a matter of sticking to the same game plan, being aggressive, making committed swings and giving myself as many chances for birdies as I can.”

McIlroy had a superb start to the day, birdying from 20 feet at the first, converting from five feet at the third and sinking another 12-footer at the fifth.

Two more birdies followed at seven and eight before the pars followed.

“The front nine was very good,” added McIlroy. “I didn’t put a foot wrong on the front nine and when I missed that little short putt on ten, it seemed like that momentum I had just went away. It was nice to make one birdie on 17, and then a great save on the last.

Two-time defending champion Stephen Gallacher lies joint-fourth on 13 under, seven back, alongside South African Open champion Andy Sullivan and first-round leader Bernd Wiesberger.

American Peter Uihlein and McIlroy’s countryman Graeme McDowell are among those on 12 under.