Resurgent McIlroy in reach of twin peaks

Riath Al-Samarrai IN DUBAI



dmg media (UK)

Formula One

A TOPSY-TURVY start followed by a finish of considerable quality. In many ways, Rory McIlroy’s stunning third round in Dubai mimicked his wider stay at a tournament that is suddenly offering him the prospect of two big victories in one day. For much of the opening two rounds, the world No 1’s form indicated he would not only fall short in his challenge to win the DP World Tour Championship here, but that he might also surrender his position at the top of the order of merit in the very last event of the season. With a brilliant 65 around the Earth Course, taking him to 12 under par, normality seems to be taking over for McIlroy. His prospects of winning the tournament outright remain hard to call, not least because of a highcalibre leaderboard topped by Jon Rahm at 15 under, but what was a deficit of seven strokes after 36 holes is now a disadvantage of only three. By jumping from 11th to a tie for fourth, the Northern Irishman has also largely reeled in Matt Fitzpatrick, who has become his main threat in the season-long rankings. To simplify the complex mathematics, US Open champion Fitzpatrick, at 14 under after carding 70, would take the Harry Vardon Trophy if he wins here and McIlroy finishes outside the top two; likewise if he is second and McIlroy is outside the top seven. ‘It’s great to put myself in a position to not only win the DP World Tour rankings but the tournament as well,’ said McIlroy, who is attempting to become only the second player to win the Tour Championships of the PGA Tour and European circuit in the same season. ‘It’s really cool. I’ve got to this stage in the game over 15 years as a pro and I’m still trying to do things for the first time. It’s been a wonderful year. ‘If I’m able to go out there and get the job done, it would be a really nice way to end a great year.’ With tighter driving than in the first two rounds, McIlroy avoided this course’s penal rough and added seven birdies to an eagle. But it was slow going initially, with that eagle at three sandwiched by bogeys. Rahm is looking strong after matching McIlroy’s 65, but the second-round leading pair of Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton had a mixed day. Fitzpatrick was too often out of position off the tee and signed for two under, while Hatton reached 15 under with three early birdies before collapsing with dropped shots on four of six holes after the turn.