Bernie McGuire, Jumeirah Estates, Dubai – Rory McIlroy declared he believes his season is deserving of ending on a ‘positive note’ heading to the final round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
The current World No. 1 took to golf’s traditional ‘moving day’ with zest grabbing an eagle and seven birdies, including three birdies over his closing five holes, in his best-of-the-week 65 to be sharing fourth place at 12-under on another scorching day here on the Earth course.
Former World No. 1 Jon Rahm matched McIlroy’s equal best of the day, moving into the lead at 14-under with Matt Fitzpatrick signing for a 70 to be in second a shot shy at 14-under with Swede Alex Noren (68) in third,
McIlroy walked from the course projected to still to end 2022 as DP World Tour No. 1 and, if so, he would become only the second player to be crowned both DP World Tour No. 1 and PGA Tour No. 1 in the same year though the goal of ending the year with a fourth victory is now in the hands of others.
“It would be really cool to end the year No. 1 on the DP World Tour,” McIlroy said. “I’ve gotten to this stage in the game over 15 years as a pro, and I’m still trying to do things for the first time. I’ve never won the FedExCup and this tour’s rankings in the same year, so it would be really nice.
“It’s been a wonderful year. I’ve played some really, really great golf and really consistent golf. If I’m able to go out there tomorrow and shoot a good score and get the job done, it would be a really nice way to end what’s been a great year.”
After ending his second round on a stunning hole with an 18th hole eagle, it was a bogey start on day three for McIlroy before sending a 202-yard second shot, at the par-5 second hole to eight feet and rolling in the putt for an eagle ‘3’. Woh! Two eagles in three holes for the Northern Irishman.
Either side of the eagles however were bogeys at one and three before turning that around, playing the remaining 13 holes in six-under, including a hat-trick of birdies from the eighth and ninth holes ahead of also two birdies in succession at 14 and 15, and holes he has not birdied this week.
The 18th hole tee was again off the front with McIlroy sending a booming 314-yard drive up the right side of the hole, leaving him 192-yards to the pin, and with a big crowd gathered around the last no doubt hoping for a repeat of the shot we saw a day earlier. Though it was not to be, with McIlroy 20-yards shy of the green before chipping to three feet and holing his birdie ‘4’ putt.
McIlroy, in a manner we’ve become accustomed to, had come from seven shots adrift of the joint 12-under-par second lead to be now only three behind and 18 holes to play.
“It feels good the position I’m in now,” he said. “I didn’t get off to a great start with a bogey on 1 but hit two quality shots into 2 and was able to make eagle and bounced back from that.
“Overall, just hit it in the fairway a bit more today which made a big difference. I was able to get control of my approach shots and hit them close and make some easy birdies.
“So yeah, obviously just need to do more of the same tomorrow,”
And what would it mean to end a 15th full season in the pro ranks not only as World No. 1 but also No.1 on golf’s two biggest tours?
“I’m not going to give up as I am always trying to go out there and to shoot the best score possible,” he said. “If was to be 12 behind going into the final day then, I guess, I don’t have thoughts of winning the tournament but I will have thoughts of getting the best out of myself and see where that takes me
“I think you always have to approach any round of golf with a goal no matter where you find yourself in a tournament. Whether you are in the lead or you’re 10 back. If you do approach everyone with a goal that gives you a purpose to go out there and play a very good 18 holes of golf. Then you can walk away, even if you finish 20th in the golf tournament you can walk away feeling as though you have achieved something,That’s the important part.
“And my feeling of wanting to win this last event, heading back home and putting my feet up for a few weeks is pretty much what I’d like to do. I think it is a bit of both. It is my last round of the season and you want to give it your all. My energy levels are pretty good but at the same time I just want to finish this year off on a really positive note. I feel like my year deserves that and if I go out and shoot a good score tomorrow then I’ll get on the plane and go back home really happy with how my year has gone.”
Shane Lowry heads into the final round of the penultimate event of his year sharing 21st place at two-under. The week continues to be a struggle for the reigning BMW PGA champ adding a 71 to his earlier scores of 73 and 70.
His third round being a mix of six birdies but losing any momentum with five bogeys, including a trio of dropped shots from the fifth to seventh holes. As well, Lowry is projected to drop one place to 10th in the final Race to Dubai standings.
FINAL ROUND – IRISH TEE TIMES (Irish time). Shane Lowry (Out with Robert MacIntyre) – 6am. Rory McIlroy (Out with Alex Noren) – 7.50am