DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy surged into contention at the Dubai Desert Classic by finishing off a 9-under 63 with an eagle on the final hole that left him 2 shots behind leader Cameron Young on Saturday.
The No. 2-ranked McIlroy, the defending champion, started the day 10 strokes behind Young. But he made four straight birdies from the seventh hole and then rolled in a 45-foot eagle putt from off the green at 18 to cap a flawless round at Emirates Golf Club.
That putt kept him in striking distance of a record fourth title at the tournament, although the Northern Irish golfer said he was tempted to chip the ball after seeing how much fringe he had to get through.
“I was like, ‘I’ll just sort of ride my luck with the putter,’ and it came out perfectly,” McIlroy said. “Obviously a huge bonus for something like that to go in. But you know, for the rest of the day, I played some very, very good golf. Definitely better than I played the last couple of days and nice to get myself right back in the tournament.”
Young got himself in some trouble by dropping 3 shots in two holes, with a double-bogey at the par-3 seventh followed by a bogey on the next hole. But he made three birdies on the back nine for a 71 to stay 2 shots ahead of McIlroy and Adrian Meronk, the recently crowned European tour’s player of 2023 who carded a 70.
Young has a 14-under total of 202 as he looks for a first win on the European tour.
“It would be a nice feeling [to win],” said Young, the runner-up at the 2022 Open Championship. “It’s one of those times that you feel like kind of at peace with what you’ve done and it’s something I would love to do tomorrow. I’ve put myself in another great place to have a chance and I’m happy with that.”