Rory McIlroy faces the most pressure packed day of his career in China on Sunday. Luckily, he has Graeme McDowell to share the burden as Ireland takes a one stroke lead into the final round of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup. 

Yes, McIlroy and McDowell are on track for a wire-to-wire victory after a bogey-free eight under par 64 left them on 26 under, just one clear of Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari (61) and Sweden's Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson (62), the defending champions.

Given McIlroy's amazing ascent from 50th to 10th in the world rankings over the past 11 months, it's amazing to think that he might have under-achieved.

And if Ireland fail to win the World Cup for the third time, the McIlroy naysayers will start pointing fingers.

Here's hoping the 20 year old Holywood sensation does not miss any putts inside four feet or he is sure to be reminded of  the titles that got away this season.

He broke through to win the Dubai Desert Classic on February 1, but stumbled over the finishing line with only a shot to spare after bogeys at the 15th, 16th and 17th forced him to get up and down from the back bunker for a winning par at the last after Justin Rose let him off the hook by missing for birdie.

The European Open? Three behind and tied third with a round to play, he had 34 putts in a closing 75 and finished 12th. He also have five three-putts for the 72 holes.

Alfred Dunhill Links? One behind Luke Donald after three rounds, he left Simon Dyson off the hook by playing the back nine on Sunday in one over.

Volvo Match Play? Three putts at the wrong time let Angel Cabrera off the hook. He lost five down and did well to take second in round robin group.

Hong Kong Open? Another average week on the greens and he's second to Gregory Bourdy in a tournament he dominated from tee to green.

Dubai World Championship? Lee Westwood was let off the hook by McIlroy's bogey-bogey-bogey finish to round three. McIlroy never gave up but it was over after three or four holes of the final round. 

The World Cup will be decided by Sunday's foursomes and that will put huge pressure on McIlroy's ever improving but still fragile putting.

The good news is that McDowell is a born winner and his seniority will be vital as the Swedes and Italians give chase.

McIlroy confessed that winning the World Cup would be the highlight of his career but it won't be easy.

“It seems to be a three horse race, so barring any disasters in the foursomes, I can’t see anyone but the top three teams winnings,” said McDowell.

“We are both playing well and both playing with a lot of confidence, but we just didn’t get the ball on the green today. We both played well on the same holes and didn’t help each other out as we did on Thursday, but generally we both put the ball in play and both played well and we are both looking forward to tomorrow.”

The Swedes certainly have the experience to put the pressure on the Irish pair.

“If you're ahead and get off to a good start like we did last year, we can sort of do our own game and put a bit of pressure because they don't really know what we are doing,” said Karlsson.

“But tomorrow we have to take care of it and we can go out and play a good foursomes tomorrow, there's every chance but it's going to be tough, because it's three really, really good teams at the top and playing at the top of their abilities, so it's going to be exciting.”

Players Championship winner Stenson added: “Ireland played great today. We were just throwing punches back and forth. I'm very pleased that we managed to creep a little bit closer and close the gap a little bit.

“We are right in the mix tomorrow and it's going to be Ireland and Italy in the last group. We are second from the back, so it's going to be a good day again tomorrow, I hope. We have the recipe from last year with a 63 in the foursome, if we can get anything close to that tomorrow, I think we have a good chance.”