Cameron Young takes two-shot lead into final round of Dubai Desert Classic

Rory McIlroy puts in a stunning round to get title defence back on track

Cameron Young plays his second shot on the 14th hole during the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic on Saturday, January 20, 2024. AP
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Cameron Young will start the final day of the 2024 Hero Dubai Desert Classic with a two-shot lead over defending champion Rory McIlroy at the top.

The American weathered a mid-round stutter to get to 14-under-par by the end of Saturday.

He double-bogeyed the seventh then made another bogey a hole later, to briefly let his lead slip. He recovered with three birdies over the back nine, giving him a slight buffer ahead of the last round.

The identity of Young’s final-round playing partner in the last match out in the tournament was not the one many people might have picked at the start of the penultimate day.

McIlroy began round three 10 shots behind Young, yet charged through the field with a scintillating 9-under 63. That took him to 12-under for the tournament, and a share of second with Adrian Meronk.

“Someone like him, I feel like you expect him to do that,” Young said of McIlroy. “Figured he wasn't going to be 30th for long.

“But I've put myself in another great place to have a chance, and I'm happy with that. If I go out and go through the process that we've set up for tomorrow, we will see what happens.”

If McIlroy does get past Meronk and Young to retain the Dallah trophy, he would become the first four-time winner of the Classic.

“It would be amazing,” McIlroy said. “Being the first player to get my name on it four times would be awesome.

“I've had so much success in Dubai, whether it be at this tournament or over at Jumeirah Golf Estates [at the DP World Tour Championship] and Race to Dubai.

“It's been a really, really good place to me. I love coming back here. I really enjoy my time here. It would be amazing if I was able to get another win.”

Updated: January 20, 2024, 1:55 PM