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Rory McIlroy surges clear of Dubai Desert Classic chasing pack

posted on 01/02/2015: 1697 views

Golf, the chasing pack were keen to assert at the end of round 3 at Emirates Golf Club, is a funny old game.

So maybe Rory McIlroy will not win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. By the same logic, perhaps the Sheikh Zayed Road will be closed because heavy snowfall has made driving conditions treacherous.

Crowning the world No 1 champion on the basis of the fact that, at 20-under par, he holds a four-shot lead over the rest would be slightly premature. Cautionary tales are, after all, fresh in the memory.

McIlroy himself finished second at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship two weeks ago, an event chiefly memorable for Martin Kaymer throwing away a 10-shot lead on the final afternoon.

It would take an equally extraordinary turn of events for him to be denied. Still, the Northern Irishman is urging caution.

"I've been in this position many times before so I know the pitfalls that are waiting out there,” said McIlroy, who has been runner up in his past three tournaments.

"It is just a matter of sticking to the same game plan, being aggressive, making committed swings and giving myself as many chances for birdie as I can.”

Even by his own lofty standards, the 25-year-old star's form this week has been sublime. He went out in 30 strokes in round 3, the lowest front nine score in the competition's history.

The pursuit of perfection, and the course record of 61, proved frustrating, though, as McIlroy's form suddenly turned cold after missing a short putt for birdie at the par-5 10th.

After five birdies in the first eight holes, he registered just one more on the way in, and needed a 20-foot putt at the last for par after finding the water with his approach. Par duly saved, he is currently on a run of 36 holes without a dropped shot.

That brief aesthetic blemish at the 18th was brought about because he goes out without a 3-iron in his bag. With 205 yards to the green, and a 4-iron or a 5-wood to decide between, he plumped for the iron. And just failed to make it.

"It was a good shot and if it had been on the fairway it was probably a good yardage for me,” he said.

"But out of the semi-rough, I needed to step on it and I just didn't quite get it there.”

Morten Orum Madsen's remarkable rise from fearing the cut-line after round one, to title contender 18 holes later extended into day 3, which he finished in second place.

The little known Dane has barely warranted a mention so far, even though he shot the lowest score of the second round, a 63, and backed it up with a 66 on Saturday.

When McIlroy is in town, everyone else tends to get overshadowed, but Madsen is happy to be in contention. He will go out in the final three-ball in vaunted company, alongside McIlroy and another former world No 1, Lee Westwood.

"He's on such a fantastic run, he deserves it,” Madsen said of the world No 1's headline monopoly.

"Rory is the best golfer in the world right now and it's not looking like he's going to falter, but if he does, somebody's going to be there to take it.”

Westwood was not in Abu Dhabi when Kaymer had his implosion two weeks ago, and said he did not watch it, either.

However, he has personal experience of the fact the final afternoon of tournament play does not always follow the expected story plan.

"I've been 10 behind somebody with nine holes to play and they have made a good putt on 17 to stay one in front,” Westwood said after his third round 69. "Golf's a funny game and anything can happen out there.”

The defending two-time champion Stephen Gallacher is in the penultimate group out this morning, seven shots off the leader.

"You've just got to try and put as a low a number as you can on the board and see what happens from there,” Gallacher said. – The National -


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