Rory McIlroy eyes Dubai Desert Classic hat-trick as he chases Justin Harding
Heading into the final round at Emirates Golf Club, McIlroy is lurking ominously, sitting just two shots behind leader Justin Harding, a compatriot of Els.
McIlroy landed his maiden European Tour win in this event in 2009 before repeating the feat six years later.
After a third-round 69 that contained an eagle and four birdies, the 32-year-old has his sights set on joining Els as the only players to complete a hat-trick on the Majlis Course.
“I live in his old house in Florida,” said McIlroy of Els, who got his hands on the Dallah Trophy in 1994, 2002 and 2005. ”It would be nice to do something else sort of intertwined with him.”
McIlroy, who is also chasing a 15th title triumph on the renamed DP World Tour, opened his 2022 campaign by tying for 12th in last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
“Better than last week,” he said in reply to being asked if he’d matched his expectations so far this week. “Happy. It's definitely been a better progress, which is nice.”
Harding, who won in Qatar in 2019 before adding a second title in Kenya last year, kept his nose in front with a polished 71, which left him on 11-under.
“I've just got to go out and keep doing what I'm doing,” said the leader of trying to stay out in front of not only McIlroy but also former European No 1 Tommy Fleetwood, four-time Rolex Series winner Tyrrell Hatton and defending champion Paul Casey.
On the back of six birdies in nine holes, Lee Westwood also had Harding in his sights before finising with a triple-bogey 8 to fall five behind.
"It was painful to watch, especially as he's a good friend of mine,” said Casey of his compatriot coming to grief. “He'd played great golf up to that point.
"But I suppose it's the old adage about if you get into trouble, don't compound it. Try to avoid doing anything that will make things even worse.”
Scott Jamieson (73) is the leading Scot on three-under, followed by Richie Ramsay (one-under) and Grant Forrest (level-par).
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