Rory McIlroy in contention ahead of final round at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
The Northern Irishman carded eight birdies and a solitary bogey.
Rory McIlroy will begin the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship one shot behind co-leaders Thomas Pieters and Ross Fisher after producing a sensational 65 on Saturday.
Playing in his first event since calling an early end to his injury-plagued and winless season in October last year, four-time major champion McIlroy came into the third round three shots behind Ryder Cup partner Pieters after following up Thursday’s 69 with a sparkling 66 on Friday.
And the Northern Irishman continued to make big strides up the leaderboard on day three, carding eight birdies and a solitary bogey to get to 16 under par and close the gap to a single stroke.
After his round, McIlroy told Sky Sports Golf: “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.”
McIlroy has an impressive record at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, with four second-placed finishes to his name.
And he would love to go one better this year.
He added: “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 play-off.
“I’m excited to get back on the horse and give myself another chance tomorrow.”
Pieters and Ross Fisher finish at 17 under par.— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 20, 2018
They'll make up the final group for Sunday. pic.twitter.com/HI0tfiVBOJ
After firing five birdies and no bogeys in his first 17 holes, Pieters produced a good par save at the last to remain at the summit.
And Fisher joined the Belgian on 17 under after closing his seven-under-par 65 with a birdie at the 18th.
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood and fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick were in a tie for fourth place on 15 under.
The only player to shoot 9 under par this week. This guy ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/v2CnRC5OCf— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 20, 2018
Fitzpatrick produced the lowest round of the day, carding 10 birdies and one bogey in his superb 63.