Ryder Cup team-mates Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy are set to go head-to-head for the Dubai Invitational title after an enthralling third round in the United Arab Emirates.
The duo’s “Fleetwood Mac” partnership claimed two points from two in the foursomes in Rome last year as Europe beat the United States 16.5-11.5 but they will be in competition on day four at Dubai Creek Resort, with Fleetwood holding a one-shot lead at the top of the leaderboard.
McIlroy had dominated the first two rounds in the desert, maintaining a two-shot lead earned via an opening 62 despite carding a quadruple-bogey in a 70 on Friday.
But Fleetwood signed for a bogey-free 63 on day three to lead the way at 15 under, one clear of McIlroy, who carded a 67.
“I felt I played very well, got off to the perfect start and got momentum early on, which I didn’t have yesterday,” said Fleetwood.
“I hit a couple of really nice putts early on, was rolling the ball well and hit the greens well. Today they went my way, just a bit of confidence when you start holing some and just get in that rhythm and that flow.”
Englishman Fleetwood quickly wiped out McIlroy’s advantage as he birdied the first, third, fourth and sixth and he led by two with another gain on the 10th.
A hat-trick of birdies from the 12th saw him lead by three but McIlroy – who had given back a gain on the fourth with a bogey on the fifth – made three birdies of his own from the 11th and cut the gap to one on the 16th.
“It was a little bit of a slow start but then I got things going on the back nine,” said the Northern Irishman. “Shot four under on the back to try to keep up with Tommy.
“I played well on that back nine and earned myself a tee time with him tomorrow and it’ll be good fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
Dane Thorbjorn Olesen was at 12 under, one shot clear of England’s Jordan Smith and South African duo Thriston Lawrence and Zander Lombard.