McIlroy just one back as Paul Dunne fires his way into contention in Abu Dhabi 3 years ago

McIlroy just one back as Paul Dunne fires his way into contention in Abu Dhabi

If Saturday is usually known as 'moving day' in golf, then Rory McIlroy and Paul Dunne adhered to tradition during the third round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

The Irish duo are both well-placed for the final round on Sunday after a couple of fine rounds. Greystones native Dunne catapulted 11 positions up the leaderboard with an excellent round of 65 to leave him four back of the lead, currently held by the impressive Belgian, Thomas Pieters and Ross Fisher on -17.


McIlroy matched Dunne. Playing his round in front of the Sky Sports cameras, the four-time major winner was in truly captivating form. The Holywood man may have dropped his first shot of the tournament (on the 15th to bring to an end his longest ever run on the European Tour without a bogey at 50 holes), but more than made up for that solitary blemish with a ball-striking exhibition.

The 28-year-old eclipsed Friday's stellar 66, signing for a 65 to give him a significant boost in his quest for a first win in 16 months.

He treated the crowds to an excellent finish, too, chipping in for a birdie on the 17th before a birdie on the par-5 18th to leave him nicely tucked in behind the leaders.

But he's merely leading the chasing pack. Overnight leader Pieters was not to be toppled, the 25-year-old producing a flawless round of 65 to remain in pole position as he hunts down a fourth win on tour (after previously tasting success in Czech Republic, Denmark and the Netherlands, this would represent the most lucrative win of Pieters' career by a considerable distance).

Ross Fisher is perfectly positioned to deny the Belgian, however. Chasing his first win in four years, Fisher played some beautiful golf on his way to carding a 66 to sit alongside Pieters and ensure that he will once again be paired with his co-leader in the final group.


England's Matthew Fitzpatrick shot the round of the day with a stunning 63. The 2016 Ryder Cup rookie is at -15. Meanwhile, last season's Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood is enjoying a stellar defence of his title, skipping round in 67 strokes to leave himself lurking with menace at -15.

It all leaves it delicately poised for an exciting Sunday finish. McIlroy has shown an impressive degree of control throughout the week. His record here is fantastic without ever having won, finishing as a runner-up on three occasions. With the way he's been playing this week, though, it would take a brave man to bet against him going one better and starting his 2018 season with a bang.