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Saturday, 27 January 2018
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy was proud of his battling performance after a back nine of 32 on Saturday put him right in the mix to claim a third title at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The Northern Irishman returned to complete his second round in the morning, making five birdies in seven holes to open up a two-shot lead.

He briefly extended that lead to three but that was as good as it got on the front side in round three, with bogeys on the fourth and eighth seeing McIlroy turn in 36 and slip behind Li Haotong.

An eagle on the tenth seemed to reignite the four-time Major winner and he picked up further shots on the 13th, 16th and last to sit just one shot behind the Chinese as he looks to equal Ernie Els' tally of trophies at Emirates Golf Club.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I showed that even whenever I didn't have my best stuff today I was able to battle around and get in at a decent score. So hopefully I have a bit of a better game tomorrow.

"The back nine's been good to me this week. I just need to figure out how to play the front a bit better. Hopefully get off to a good start tomorrow.

"It would be great to put my name on that trophy for a third time. This is one of my favourite tournaments of the year, a place I've always done well at, some good memories.

"Maybe that experience of winning a couple of times around here, being in contention quite a lot, will help me tomorrow."

Frenchman Alexander Levy enters the final round two shots behind McIlroy after an entertaining 65 that contained the third ace of the season.

A run of five birdies from the ninth had Levy in the lead before bogeys on the 15th and 16th staled his momentum but the undoubted highlight of his round was the second hole-in-one of the week.

The four-time winner hit a nine iron from 171 yards on the fourth that took two bounces and then rolled into the cup.

"That was a perfect yardage, little nine iron," he said. "I hit a perfect shot straight to the flag and I don't know, I got lucky to make it because it's a lot of downhill, left-to-right.

"I just watched the shot and yeah, perfect pace, perfect shot. But it's little bit lucky.

"It felt  nice but I looked around and no prize, so I was a little bit upset!"

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LI, HaotongCHN18-23
2MCILROY, RoryNIR18-22
3HATTON, TyrrellENG18-20
4LEVY, AlexanderFRA18-19
5PAISLEY, ChrisENG18-17
T6RAMSAY, RichieSCO18-16

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