Rory McIlroy hopes he can rediscover the kind of form that helped him shoot a course record 61 at Royal Portrush less than three years ago when he attempts to bridge a six-shot gap on leader Gregory Bourdy and win his maiden European Tour title at the Estoril Portuguese Open.
Still a month short of his 19th birthday, McIlroy equalled his lowest round on tour with a superb 66 at Oitavos Dunes to go into today’s final round with an outside chance of victory.
Overnight leader Bourdy fired a three-under par 68 to lead by four shots on 17-under par from Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth (66) with South African Charl Schwartzel (66) and England’s Miles Tunnicliff (63) a shot further back on 12-under par.
McIlroy shares fifth place with a resurgent David Howell (67), Dane Soren Kjeldsen (68), England’s Lee Slattery (68) and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, who double bogeyed the last for a disappointing 72.
“I might have to go lower than 63 but I have shot 61 before .... back in my heyday, when I was good,” McIlroy said with a smile. “But I feel I am striking the ball a lot better. If I can just get a few to drop early on, you never know.”
Damien McGrane and Paul McGinley shot four under par 67s to get to 10 and nine-under par respectively with Darren Clarke 33rd on six-under after an eagle, three birdies and three bogeys in a 69.