Saturday, 23 January 2016
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy was part of a five-way tie for the lead as the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship set itself up for a dramatic final day in the desert.

A fog delay of two hours and 45 minutes on Friday had seen round two spill into Saturday, only for the early resumption to be delayed by two hours and 50 minutes as more mist descended on Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

That means all but 13 of the field will have to return at 0740 on Sunday morning to complete their third rounds with 21 players within three shots of the leading mark of ten under.

Branden Grace, Rickie Fowler, Joost Luiten and Ian Poulter are all alongside McIlroy at that score with the upper echelons of the leaderboard full of some of the biggest names in world golf.

Andy Sullivan was on course to take a two-shot lead into the final round as he stood on the ninth tee but a triple bogey dropped him into the group at nine under where he was joined by Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Henrik Stenson and Robert Rock.

Thongchai Jaidee was the clubhouse leader in the group a shot further back, one clear of World Number One Jordan Spieth who also managed to get his round of 68 completed in the twilight.

Grace has just two holes to complete upon the resumption with Poulter having played 13, Fowler facing another seven, Luiten eight, and McIlroy left with the back nine to tackle.

Back-to-back rounds of 67 had handed Sullivan the overnight lead and he was two shots ahead when the third round got under way, with McIlroy in a share of second after recording a spectacular birdie-eagle finish to complete his second round.

The 26 year old took advantage of the par five second and was in a share of top spot when Sullivan bogeyed the third with both of the leading duo putting their tee shots on the par three fourth close to make birdie

Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan

McIlroy had been making serene progress but out of nowhere came a bogey on the fifth and when he dropped back to nine under, he was one of six players in a share of second.

Grace turned in 32 thanks to birdies at the first, third, sixth and seventh and another at the 11th had him a shot off the lead as the chasing pack jostled for position behind the leader.

Sullivan kept them at bay, however, with another birdie on a par three at the seventh as he left himself a ten-foot uphill putt.

Luiten had birdied the second and when he went back-to-back on the seventh and eighth he was ten under, but Sullivan was in no mood to be caught and played an excellent approach to birdie the eighth with McIlroy following him in to join Luiten.

Poulter had followed a birdie at the first with six straight pars but came alive around the turn with gains on the eighth, ninth and tenth moving him to nine under.

Ian Poulter

 He was joined there by Fowler who added to birdies at the second and sixth with another on the tenth.

A sixth birdie of the day for Grace on the 14th moved him within two of the leader where Poulter soon found himself thanks to a fourth birdie in five holes on the 12th.

A bogey for Luiten on the ninth dropped him back to nine under but he was to pick up a birdie on the tenth to move into the leading group as the light faded.

There was still time for more drama as Fowler made a fourth gain of the day on the 11th with trouble off the tee seeing Sullivan tumble from the summit.

The Englishman put his tee shot on the ninth a long way right and a lost ball resulted in him returning to the tee. He then put his fourth shot into the bunker and could not get up-and-down from the sand.

Pieters, a two-time winner on the European Tour last season was the form man on the course as the big-hitting Belgian got to seven under on the day through 15 holes with Stenson and Rock both two under for their rounds having completed ten.

Cabrera-Bello had turned in 34 when the horn sounded courtesy of birdies on the fifth and sixth.

Jaidee had seven birdies in his 67 which put him in a group with Byeong-hun An, Matthew Baldwin and Peter Hanson, who will all have to return to finish their rounds.

Spieth had endured a frustrating second round but fired a blemish-free 68 to sit three off the lead with amateur Bryson DeChambeau, Trevor Fisher Jnr, David Horsey, three-time winner Martin Kaymer, Shiv Kapur and Mike Lorenzo-Vera.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1FOWLER, RickieUSA18-16
2PIETERS, ThomasBEL18-15
T3STENSON, HenrikSWE18-14
T3MCILROY, RoryNIR18-14
T5SIEM, MarcelGER18-11
T5SPIETH, JordanUSA18-11

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