Rory McIlroy surges into contention with stunning 63 in Dubai

World No 2 will start the final round just two shots behind leader Cameron Young

Defending champion Rory McIlroy has surged into contention at the Dubai Desert Classic after a superb 63 on Saturday at the Emirates GC.

Starting the day 10 shots off the pace, the world number two started as he meant to go on with a wedge to two feet for birdie at the opening hole. A birdie at the par 5 third hole followed before brilliant approaches on the seventh, eighth and ninth holes – to eight feet, eight feet and four feet – set up three more birdies and a front nine of 30 strokes.

McIlroy continued his momentum by birdieing two par 5s on the back nine, the 10th and the 13th, before his grandstand finish. A well-placed drive set up an approach of 213 yards to the green, which he put on the back edge. From just under 50 feet, McIlroy holed his putt for eagle and sign off his round of 63 and a tie for second place.

He will start tomorrow on 12 under and two shots behind Cameron Young, whose caddie is Dubliner Paul McBride. The American went double-bogey, bogey on the front nine to put McIlroy in the lead, but three birdies on the back nine restored his lead as he chases his first victory on the PGA or DP World Tours.


Polish golfer Adrian Meronk is level with McIlroy on 12 under after a round of 70, three shots ahead of Haotong Li and Rasmus Hojgaard on nine under.

Tom McKibbin is tied 19th after a round of 70 left him on four under.

Former Dubai resident McIlroy has an impressive record in the emirate, with his first professional win having come in this event 15 years ago.

He has since added two more to match Ernie Els’s record of Desert Classic wins, while also lifting the trophy twice across the city at the DP World Tour Championship.

“I’ve had so much success in Dubai, whether it be at this tournament or over at Jumeirah Golf Estates and Race to Dubais,” he said.

“It’s been a really, really good place to me. I love coming back here. I really enjoy my time here. It would be amazing if I was able to get another win.

“The first player to get my name on it four times, it would be awesome.”

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David Gorman

David Gorman

David Gorman is a sports journalist with The Irish Times