McIlroy leads by 3 in Dubai; Reed drive gets stuck in a tree
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rory McIlroy delivered an exhibition of short iron play to shoot 7 Under 65 in his third round and take a three-shot lead at the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday.
Top-ranked McIlroy birdied eight at the Emirates Golf Club – four in a row from No 1, three straight from No 13 and another at No 17 – and none of the birdie putts were over 7 feet.
“I drove the ball better today which put me in better positions to attack and make birdies,” said the Northern Irishman, making his first start of 2023. “It’s almost there , not quite there, but I’m making the most of good shots that I’m hitting and putting well. I’m just playing golf very effectively right now.
McIlroy gave the chasers some hope, however, by bogeying the par-5 No. 18, for his only loose shot of the round, after hitting a fairway wood about 250 yards into the water in front of the green . After missing a par putt from 8ft, McIlroy had a disappointed look on his face as he left the green, despite having a huge lead.
The four-time major champion made the same mistake on the 18th hole of his final round of last year’s tournament to finish a shot behind the leaders when a birdie would have won him the title.
“I love this golf course, this tournament. I’ve won here many times…but I don’t think I won on my first (one-year) start,” he said. “I gave myself the opportunity to try and do something that I had never done before.”
McIlroy was 15 under overall, with England players Callum Shinkwin (67) and Dan Bradbury (68), ranked No. 484, tied for second.
As the ranking players descended into the home stretch, there seemed a strong chance that McIlroy and Patrick Reed would be together in the final group of Monday’s final round. It would have been a must-watch after hitting the headlines with a pre-tournament feud.
Reed, however, bogeyed the par-4 driveable 17th when his tee shot got stuck in a palm tree after the American tried to cut the corner on a dogleg right. Reed ended up shooting 69 and was part of a seven-man group tied for fourth on 11 under, four shots behind McIlroy.
“You know what, I hit that tee shot, I didn’t even see those palms,” Reed said. “I felt like it was on a good line, just to the left of the green and I guess I just need to be a little more to the right or a little higher.”
Reed and a rules official used binoculars to identify the player’s ball in the tree. This allowed Reed to take a penalty near the base of the tree instead of having to return to the tee.
“I would have gone back to the tee if I wasn’t 100 per cent,” Reed told Britain’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper. “I was lucky that we were able to look through the binoculars and you have to make sure it’s your ball, and the way I mark my golf balls is I always put an arrow on the end of my line .
“And you could definitely see and identify the line with the arrow at the end, and the rules guy, thankfully, was there to reconfirm it and check it to make sure it was mine too.”
The under-11 group included Frenchman Victor Perez (66), winner of the equally prestigious Abu Dhabi championship last week.
Spanish player Adri Arnaus briefly held the lead at 13 under after eight holes in his round, but fell after bogeying the No. 9 and double-bogey at the par-5 13th. Arnaus was also one of those on 11 sous.
The tournament ends Monday after bad weather cut short play on the first two days.
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