Fleetwood and McIlroy set for Dubai showdown

Ronan MacNamara
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Rory McIlroy (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Tommy Fleetwood will take a one shot lead into the final round of the Dubai Invitational after a blistering 63 saw him leapfrog Rory McIlroy.

Fleetwood was in cruise control all day and fired eight birdies in a flawless third round to reach fifteen-under.

McIlroy found himself three shots adrift throughout the back nine but three successive birdies and a late birdie on 16 saw him grind out a 67 for -14 as his putter became red hot.

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“I think just first week back, being in the final group, I started feeling a little bit of the buzz and the pressure, trying to win a golf tournament,” he said. “You think you know where your game is until you play in it in a situation like that.

“So I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well this week and hopefully one more day.

“It was a little bit of a slow start but then I got things going on the back nine. Shot four under on the back to try to keep up with Tommy. I played well on that back nine and earned myself a tee time with him tomorrow and it’ll be good fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

McIlroy saw his two shot overnight lead vanish after a frustrating front nine of one birdie, one bogey as Fleetwood went on a blistering run of four birdies in his opening six holes before adding another on the tenth.

Just as it looked like Fleetwood might steal a march with a birdie on 12, McIlroy turned the screw with a 34-foot birdie on 11 before he drained a fifteen-footer from the back fringe of the 12th green for back-to-back gains to move to within one of the Englishman.

Fleetwood made it three birdies in four to start the back nine rolling a ten-footer on the par-5 13th to move two clear of McIlroy and Thriston Lawrence on fourteen-under.

Fleetwood wasn’t for catching with a third birdie in a row on 14 but McIlroy replied with an expert wedge to the par-5 13th for his third birdie in succession to remain two back.

The putts were starting to drop for the four-time major winner at this stage but none were as important as the par save on 14 from the fringe after a fluffed chip which drew a momentum maintaining fist pump.

The Holywood clubman birdied the par-3 16th to claw within one of his Ryder Cup teammate and tee up a Sunday shootout.

Thorbjørn Olesen is three shy on twelve-under while Thriston Lawrence, Zander Lombard and Jordan Smith are four back on eleven-under.

“I felt I played very well, got off to the perfect start and got momentum early on, which I didn’t have yesterday,” Fleetwood said.

“That little patch through the middle of the back nine where you just start seeing putts going in, it’s funny when you get a day like that and you’re just looking at them and you just feel like you can come close.

“I hit a couple of really nice putts early on, was rolling the ball well and hit the greens well. Today they went my way, just a bit of confidence when you start holing some and just get in that rhythm and that flow.”

New Callaway staffer, Tom McKibbin, looked at ease with his new sticks, carding four birdies in a clean back nine to climb to six-under-par with a fine effort of 67.

 

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