Rory McIlroy returned to The K Club early on Sunday and closed with three successive pars to complete a third round 70 and take a three-stroke lead into the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation.
With Danny Willett also completing his weather-delayed third round with four successive pars for a 74, Mcilroy leads by three on nine under par from the Masters champion, setting up a final round thriller.
Despite two suspensions due to the threat of lightning and heavy downpours at The K Club, the tournament Host kept the bogeys off his card – and was the only player to do so – before fast fading light led to play eventually being abandoned at 8.29pm on Saturday
The World No 3 then returned to the 16th hole at 7.55am and parred his way to the clubhouse to retain his three-stroke overnight lead.
“I’m a little disappointed with how I finished today,” Mcilroy said. “I felt like I had two good opportunities there on 16 and 18 to make birdies and didn’t birdie either of them."
After shooting his first bogey-free round since a third round 68 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in March, he added: “I am going to have to go out and shoot a solid round of golf this afternoon and hopefully that will be good enough.
“That’s one of my first bogey free rounds in a while so if I can continue that, not make any mistakes and just throw in a few birdies, that will be the game plan and hopefully it works out."
McIlroy has never won his national Open, but despite failing to extend his lead, he is still the firm favourite to break his drought after a superbly controlled performance in testing conditions over two days.
“To be leading going into the final day — I’m standing here a little disappointed it isn’t more — is good. So I will just rest up to try and get myself mentally rested to go out and play another good round of golf.”
As for the course, he hinted that it can't take much more punishment.
“The course is a little wet," he said. "The conditions last night weren’t favourable and the greens are a little soft and spongy this morning, understandably, but hopefully we get a couple more hours of dry weather and it might dry up a little more."
McIlroy has never won his national Open, but will be the firm favourite to break his drought after a superbly controlled performance in testing conditions over two days.
McIlroy will tee off with Willett and Russell Knox at 11.00. Tee-times