Rory McIlroy is part of a five-way share of the lead in the delayed third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship after a day of drama in the desert, writes the European Tour.
The four-time Major Champion finished off his second round in stunning fashion on Saturday morning by following a birdie on the 17th hole with a tap in eagle on the 18th for a two under par 70. Fog had delayed the start of play by nearly three hours for a second consecutive day, but the Northern Irishman did not let the interruptions affect him, as he also made a strong start to his third round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
After the re-start, McIlroy picked up shots on the second and fourth holes, before his only bogey of the day on the fifth, but he then added another birdie on the eighth to move to ten under par for the tournament.
The four-time runner up was two shots off the pace set by playing partner Andy Sullivan when their group stood on the ninth tee, but Sullivan lost his ball off the tee and went on to card a triple bogey seven, just as fading light halted play for the day.
That meant McIlroy, who safely made par, will resume play on Sunday morning at the top of the leaderboard alongside American Rickie Fowler, who was four under through 11; South African Branden Grace, who was six under par after 16 holes; Dutchman Joost Luiten, who was three under after birdieing his tenth and final hole of the day; and Englishman Ian Poulter, who surged to the summit after making five birdies and no bogeys in the 13 holes he completed.
Sullivan also remains in contention, one shot back on nine under par, alongside Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Henrik Stenson and Robert Rock. Meanwhile, World Number One Jordan Spieth, who is making his debut in the event, was one of only 13 players to complete their third rounds. The American posted a four under par round of 68 to move to seven under, just three shots off the pace.
“It was a solid enough nine. I obviously played them a bit better than I played them yesterday. I thought if it could have been maybe one better – had a three-putt on five - but I thought it was a solid nine holes, and I did what I needed to do. Your rhythm is a bit off (with the delays), stop and start.
“But I felt like I played well those nine holes and made a couple of nice putts, gave myself a few more chances and I’m in a decent position going into tomorrow.”
“I holed a couple of nice putts, which was key to moving up the board, and I’m quite happy. I played real solid. I was able to hit some good shots, I was able to take advantage and hole a couple of nice putts and now I find myself on the board.
“It's nice to see myself up there on the board. It's nice to get off to a good start to 2016 and hopefully I can continue that through tomorrow and have a good finish.”
“The last two holes - ten and 11 – I hit some good shots. I made a good putt to finish on the 11th. The game feels good, I’m happy to make a couple of putts there at the last. I decided to hit the putt on 11 after the horn blew – I just wanted to make it to kind of keep things going - and I’m looking forward to getting back out tomorrow.
“I've kind of rounded into form as the week has gone on. I’m looking forward to getting back, get some food and rest. It's going to be a long day tomorrow and hopefully a lot of birdies.”
“I’m very pleased. My short game is there when tee-to-green wasn't. But then, when my tee-to-green was on, I just didn't make anything. I just haven't made any putts this week. I've made maybe one outside of ten feet, and I've missed a few inside ten feet."
“We were on about number six when the shadows were pretty long and weren't sure if we were going to make it. We got up there and didn't really know if there were any rules around us, who tees off first.
“We let them tee off first, and I was first to tee off and as I struck my shot, the horn blew at the buzzer. We were all very, very relieved to have that happen. It saved us about five-plus hours in arriving to the course tomorrow.”