From Phil Casey
AVOIDING the floodlights provided the spark for Rory McIlroy to reignite his challenge for a fourth win of the year in the Turkish Airlines Open.
McIlroy has targeted at least one victory from his three events in the Final Series as he looks to win the Race to Dubai for the third time in four years.
And the world number three will go into Sunday’s final round just a shot off the lead shared by Ryder Cup team-mate Victor Dubuisson and South African Jaco van Zyl after a third consecutive 67 at Montgomerie Maxx Royal.
McIlroy was level par for the day after ten holes, dropping his first shots of the week by three-putting the third and tenth, the latter mistake prompting the 26-year-old to throw his putter at his bag – and appropriately miss.
A birdie on the par-five 11th improved the Northern Irishman’s mood and a towering four iron from 229 yards on the 13th set up an eagle from just four feet.
“I couldn’t see the pin,” McIlroy said. “I picked a line and had to go a little bit right of one of the floodlights. I just had to make sure I missed the floodlight and I knew it would be an okay shot.
“It was probably partly luck and partly a good shot. It’s tough to stop it where that pin is, but to be able to make three there I thought was a big bonus. And to birdie the hole afterwards was nice as well. That definitely turned the day around a bit.”
McIlroy also birdied the 18th for the first time this week after previously scrambling for pars, adding: “It was nice not to hit it in a bush or not hit it somewhere where you have to hit it left-handed. I thought for a second it was going left again and thankfully it just caught the right side of the slope for me.
“It was nice to make four at the last and nice to get another shot towards the lead. I got off to a bit of a slow start. I don’t know why. I just felt very lethargic out there today and couldn’t really get any energy. To finish the way I did was very pleasing because I needed to dig in deep and finish the round off well, which I did.”
Asked if another 67 and 20-under-par total would be enough to win the title, McIlroy added: “I’ll go out there with the mindset that I need to beat that to have a chance to win.
“The 67s I’ve shot this week have all been a little different and I feel like I’ve played within myself for all of them. So I feel there’s a low round out there for me and hopefully it’s tomorrow.”
Dubuisson’s sole win to date came in the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open in 2013 and he has struggled to repeat such form in 2015, recording just two top-10 finishes.
“My long game has been really, really good since the beginning of the year, but my short game was just really, really bad,” Dubuisson said after seven birdies and two bogeys in a round of 65. “I changed my putter a month and a half ago and today was a great performance. I made just two mistakes today but made some great putts on the back nine.
“This is a course I feel great on. It’s similar to a course I practise on when I’m not playing a tournament.”
Van Zyl played his first 28 holes in 16 under and the following 26 in level par, carding a third-round 70 in pursuit of his first European Tour title.
“It was kind of a slow day out there today,” said the 36-year-old, who has led since an opening 61 on Thursday. “I did what I needed to do on some holes and let a couple opportunities slip on the back nine.
“Obviously Thursday was something special. I didn’t miss any shots and the putter was really hot. The last two days I’ve been hitting it nicely, so can’t really complain there.
“At the end of the day, it’s an honour to be in this position. I’ll go out there and see what the golfing gods have got in score.”
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat was alongside McIlroy on 15 under after a 66 marred by a solitary bogey on the 18th, with England’s Chris Wood 13 under alongside BMW PGA Championship winner Byeong Hun An, whose 65 was the lowest score of the day.