Is McIlroy a good chaser?
 Rory McIlroy outscored Stephen Gallacher by three shots on Thursday — 63 to 66. He needs a similar result at The Emirates Golf Club on Sunday. Picture Eoin Clarke  www.golffile.ie

Rory McIlroy outscored Stephen Gallacher by three shots on Thursday — 63 to 66. He needs a similar result at The Emirates Golf Club on Sunday. Picture Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ie

Rory McIlroy must come from two shots behind Stephen Gallacher if he's to win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and his 11th official title as a professional. Can he do it? The statistics will certainly give him hope.

The world No 6 could "only" manage a 69 as Gallacher played his last 10 holes in 10 under and put together the joint lowest back nine with respect to par in European Tour history — 28 blows — to sign for a round of 63 and finish two shots clear of the Holywood star on 16 under par.

Best known as a front-runner, McIlroy may need his best golf to deny 39-year old defending champion Gallacher his third European Tour title but he sounds up for the fight.

"I’ve been in similar positions before and came out on top, so hopefully I can do it again," McIlroy said after a round featuring two bogeys, three birdies and an eagle three.

“I played okay. I felt like I could’ve hit a few more fairways and holed a few more putts, but two shots behind going into tomorrow isn’t bad.  

“What Stevie did was phenomenal. I didn’t know he was ten under for the last ten holes.  That’s some golf right there, especially as you’ve got some tough holes on the back nine. So that’s very, very impressive.” 

Just how good is McIlroy's record when trailing going into the final round?

Of his 11 professional wins — 10 of them official — he's been forced to come from behind five times

Delving deeper into his statistics (on the European Tour and the PGA Tour alone), he has been within five shots of the lead going into the final round 43 times since he turned professional and won four. Five of 44 if you include last December's Australian Open win over Adam Scott.

He has also had the lead or a share of the lead on eight occasions entering the final round in events on the word's two biggest tours and won five of them.

Of course, Gallacher and McIlroy won't have everything their own way with the big hitting pair of American Brooks Koepka (70) and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen (65) just four shots behind the Scot on 12 under.

For the record, here's the list of McIlroy's five come from behind wins:

  • May 2010 - Quail Hollow Championship

Two behind Webb Simpson, he shot 62 to win by four from Phil Mickelson and become the youngest PGA Tour winner since Tiger Woods. Incredibly, he only made the cut on the mark.

 Rory McIlroy celebrates his winning bunker shot in the 2011 Hong Kong Open. Picture by Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ie

  • December 2011 - UBS Hong Kong Open 

Tied fifth, three strokes behind Alvaro Quiros, he holed a bunker shot at the 72nd hole for a 65 and a two-shot win over Gregory Havret.

  • September 2012 - Deutsche Bank Championship

Trailing Louis Oosthuizen by three shots in second place, McIlroy needed just five holes to draw level and shot a four-under 67 for a one-shot victory over the South African.

 McIlroy with the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship

McIlroy with the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship

  • September 2012 - BMW Championship

Tied for third with Lee Westwood and trailing Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh by one stroke, McIlroy shot a five-under 67 to win by two from Mickelson and Westwood. 

  • December 2013 - Emirates Australian Open

 Rory McIlroy after coming from behind to win the Australian Open trophy last year.

Rory McIlroy after coming from behind to win the Australian Open trophy last year.

Trailing Masters champion Adam Scott by four strokes, McIlroy birdied the last for a 66 to win by one from the Australian.

As for the other Irish in action in Dubai, Damien McGrane shot a one under 71 to share ninth place on nine under while Michael Hoey did well to shoot 73 after a triple bogey seven at the ninth saw him turn in 39.

Hoey is tied for 64th on one under while world No 1 Tiger Woods is joint 37th on five under after a 70.