Defending champion Rory McIlroy carded a stunning 63 to surge into contention on day three of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic but will have to get past American Cameron Young if he is to claim a fourth title at Emirates Golf Club.
The Northern Irishman carded seven birdies and a closing eagle to get to 12 under, having entered the weekend 10 shots off Young’s lead after a slow start in the desert.
He was top of the leaderboard as the world number 25 reached the turn in 37 but Young rallied with three birdies on the back nine to sign for a 71 and open up a two-shot lead at 14 under.
Former Dubai resident McIlroy has an impressive record in the emirate, with his first professional win having come in this event 15 years ago.
He has since added two more to match Ernie Els’ record of Desert Classic wins, while also lifting the trophy twice across the city at the DP World Tour Championship.
“I’ve had so much success in Dubai, whether it be at this tournament or over at Jumeirah Golf Estates and Race to Dubais,” he said.
“It’s been a really, really good place to me. I love coming back here. I really enjoy my time here. It would be amazing if I was able to get another win.
“The first player to get my name on it four times, it would be awesome.”
McIlroy hit a brilliant approach to the first, took advantage of the par-five third and then put iron shots inside 10 feet on the seventh, eighth and ninth to turn in 30.
More birdies on par fives followed on the 10th and 13th before he holed a 45-foot putt from off the green at the last for a closing eagle.
Young started with a birdie but found water on the seventh for a double-bogey and dropped a shot on the next, with gains on the 11th, 13th and 17th taking him back to the summit.
“It would be a nice feeling (to win),” said Young, who has yet to register a win on a top-tier tour.
“It’s one of those times that you feel like kind of at peace with what you’ve done and it’s something I would love to do tomorrow. I’ve put myself in another great place to have a chance and I’m happy with that.”
Pole Adrian Meronk was alongside McIlroy at 12 under after a 70, three shots clear of Dane Rasmus Hojgaard and China’s Li Haotong.