Tommy Fleetwood overtakes Rory McIlroy to grab Dubai Invitational lead

Englishman takes one-shot lead into final round

Tommy Fleetwood of England tees off on the third hole during the third round of Dubai Invitational on Saturday, January 13, 2024. AP
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Tommy Fleetwood recorded eight birdies in a flawless third round at the Dubai Invitational on Saturday to take a one-shot advantage over halfway leader Rory McIlroy.

Four birdies over the first six holes set Fleetwood up for an eight-under 63 as the Englishman produced another flurry of birdies just after the turn.

He goes into the final round 15-under for the tournament, just ahead of Ryder Cup team-mate McIlroy.

"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, who is leading going into the final round of a European Tour event for the first time since 2014.

"That little patch through the middle of the back nine where you just start seeing putts going in, it's funny when you get a day like that and you're just looking at them and you just feel like you can come close.

"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."

World number two McIlroy, a winner of five European Tour titles in Dubai, carded a 67 after recovering well from a bogey on the fifth hole.

He opened the day leading the field by two shots but saw his advantage quickly wiped out by Fleetwood.

Thorbjorn Olesen sits alone in third, two strokes further back, after signing for a bogey-free 66.

Fleetwood had extended his lead thanks to a birdie on the 10th, but McIlroy pulled the gap back to one shot when he birdied the 16th to set up an exciting final round at the inaugural Dubai Invitational where the winner will take home $425,000.

"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."

Updated: January 13, 2024, 1:38 PM