(Reuters) - China’s Li Haotong carded an eight-under-par 64 on day three of the Dubai Desert Classic to reach 20-under for the tournament and open up a one-shot lead over two-times champion Rory McIlroy at Emirates Golf Club on Saturday.
Four-times major winner McIlroy started shakily with two bogeys before the turn, but scorched the back nine with a score of 32, including an eagle on the par-five 10th, to end on four-under for the round and stay within touching distance of Li.
“I’ve never been in this position before so it’s going to be fun out there tomorrow,” said Li, who is gunning for his second European Tour title. “Hopefully I can do my best out there and have some low scores.
“I just want to play by myself and play my game. I thought if I just stayed patient, I’ll play good. So I just stayed patient all day.”
Alexander Levy and Haydn Porteous were tied in third place at 17-under, a shot ahead of Andy Sullivan, who set the clubhouse target with a round of 63.
Early pace-setter David Horsey was then in sixth place on 15-under, ahead of a clutch of eight players by a single shot, including fellow Englishman Tyrell Hatton and South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli.
McIlroy, who returned to complete his second round in the morning and started his third with a two-shot lead, was pleased with the fight he showed to shrug off bogeys on the fourth and eighth holes.
“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,” he said.
“The back nine’s been good to me this week. I just need to figure out how to play the front a bit better.”
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar