McIlroy looking for a new year first in capturing a third Hero Dubai Desert Classic title

Fatiha Betscher

Rory McIlroy (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

by Fatiha Betscher, Emirates GC, Dubai 

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and seek to achieve a feat which has eluded him for 15-years, and that is to win the first event of a New Year.

Despite thinning his second shot into the water guarding the final green, McIlroy will head a first Monday finish in the Rolex Series event leading by three shots at 15-under-par.


For 17 holes McIlroy was at his best, birdieing the opening four holes, and while producing eight straight pars, he moved clear of his rivals thanks to a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th and then advancing four clear with a birdie at 17.

McIlroy’s second shot into the water guarding the last quickly reminded us of a similar fate on Sunday of the tournament a year ago when he handed Norwegian Viktor Hovland the tournament.

Now a year on, McIlroy looks unstoppable to make it pro win No. 36 and DP Tour World triumph No. 15.

And after the disappointment with his results in recent years in starting a New Year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, his Dubai Desert Classic record of two prior victories (2009 & 2016) must place him great stead to be the first player in the 34-year history of the event to become a three-time champion.

“Yeah, it would be great to win tomorrow”, he said. “I love this golf course. I love this tournament. You know, as you said, I’ve won here a couple of times.

“You know, this is my first start of the year. I don’t think I’ve ever won in my first start of the year. I had plenty of chances at Abu Dhabi down the road over the years, and never quite got it done. So tomorrow is a nice opportunity to try to do something that I’ve never done before”.

The England duo of Callum Shinkwin (67) and Dan Bradburg (68) share second place at 12-under and one clear of seven players including last week’s winner Victor Perez and American Patrick Reed, who signed for 69 that included losing a ball up a palm tree but, thanks to the use of a pair of binoculars that is allowed, was able to identify a unique ‘arrow’ he places on his golf balls from where he eventually signed for a bogey.

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