Saturday, 20 January 2018
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy said winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA on his return to competitive golf would mean a lot to him.

The four-time Major Champion, who is playing in his first event since calling an early end to his season in October last year, sat one shot behind co-leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters heading into the final round.

Abu Dhabi Golf Club has been a happy hunting ground for McIlroy in the past but he has yet to taste victory in this event.

The Northern Irishman would love to change that this week and add this trophy to his 13 European Tour titles.

He said: "It would mean a lot. I've had a lot of close calls here, I think about six top threes or something like that. 

"I've never won my first start back out. I was close last year in South Africa, Stormy (Graeme Storm) beat me in a playoff.

"I'm excited to get back on the horse and give myself another chance tomorrow."

McIlroy began the day three shots behind Ryder Cup partner Pieters after producing bogey-free rounds of 69 and 66 on the first two days.

And the 28 year old picked up where he left off on Saturday, carding eight birdies and a single bogey to move to 16 under par and close the gap to one stroke.

McIlroy added: "I feel like I played similar again. I probably scored a bit better.

"My short game was needed at times. But I putted really well and hit the ball very well.

"So all in all, it was another great round and another really good confidence builder. 

"Not just for this week but for the rest of the season, as well."

Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood was another shot behind McIlroy in a tie for fourth alongside Matthew Fitzpatrick after posting a bogey-free 67 in his third round.

He said: "Being in contention on a Sunday is just where everybody wants to be. We all start preparing on the Monday and six days later you want to be there on the back nine on Sunday in contention. 

"That's the aim for the week and see where it goes from there.

"For me, it's been a really solid week so far. I'm happy with my game and that's just what I've got to go out and do tomorrow. 

"To go out with the same attitude and hopefully I'll swing it the same and have a lot more chances and we'll see what happens."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
2FISHER, RossENG18-20
T5PAISLEY, ChrisENG18-17
T5PIETERS, ThomasBEL18-17

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