Top-ranked Luke Donald is on the verge of becoming the first golfer to win the European and American money titles, shooting a 6-under 66 Saturday in the third round at the Dubai World Championship to trail leader Alvaro Quiros by four strokes.
While Donald climbed the leaderboard, Rory McIlroy headed the other way to all but end his chances of overtaking the Englishman for top spot on the European money list. The U.S. Open champion had a shaky 1-under 71 to drop into a tie for eighth.
"It's over," McIlroy said. "Luke is in a great position and he's played great the past couple of days. I expect him to go out and shoot another very solid round tomorrow and wrap things up."
Rory McIlroy needs to win the tournament and Donald needs to finish outside the top nine for any chance of overtaking him for the European money title. Donald, who wrapped up the American money title this year, is fourth.
The big-hitting Quiros shot a 70 to total 14-under 202 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. He leads Paul Lawrie (66) by two strokes while 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizien (66) is another shot back.
Several other high-profile players — including No. 4-ranked Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey of England — also moved into contention. Kaymer tied the course record with a 64 for a share of eighth place with McIlroy, Garcia (68) and Casey (70).
Despite his strong finish, Donald said he isn't about to start celebrating just yet.
"I would be foolish to think it's over," Donald said of the money title race. "Tomorrow it will be just like any other day in terms of focus. I will be trying to catch whomever is the leader and trying to win the tournament."
Donald said the key to his rise from 26th spot after the first round was his short game. It helped him win the BMW PGA Championship, among four tournament victories this year. He defeated Lee Westwood in a playoff at Wentworth to take top spot.
Donald opened on Saturday with a birdie on a hole he had bogeyed the first two days, and then had three more birdies on the front nine. He slowed down on the back nine but birdied two of the last four holes.
"Picked up the birdies when I had opportunities and really took full advantage of all those opportunities," he said. "In a certain way, there was a lot of grind out there. It was a solid round of golf but it certainly wasn't perfect. I hit a few loose shots, but when I got into trouble I was able to really dig myself out of it with some great short game."
McIlroy made a poor start and had a bogey and a double-bogey on his front nine.
"Yeah, wasn't the start I wanted, obviously," said McIlroy, whose tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki was there to cheer him on. "Struggled early on. On the front nine, I kept losing everything left. It cost me two shots.
"I was just trying to play good golf and it just wasn't happening for me. Some days it's like that. I knew I needed to shoot something in the mid 60s to give myself a chance going into tomorrow and I didn't do that."
McIlroy has been bothered by fatigue the last few weeks. On Friday he said it may be the lingering effects of dengue fever that he may have picked up when playing in South Korea or China last month. McIlroy said blood test results Thursday showed his white blood cell count remained low. He said he may pull out of next week's Thailand Golf Championship.
The 52nd-ranked Quiros, who had the lead going into final round last week in Hong Kong only to lose to McIlroy, had a rollercoaster round in which it appeared he might falter again.
Leading by four after the second round, Quiros opened with a bogey after an errant drive into the rough, only to recover with a birdie on No. 2. He had another bogey on No. 4 before a birdie two holes later and then an eagle on No. 7.
The topsy-turvy play continued on the back nine, with two birdies and two bogeys, one after three-putting on the 18th.
"I'm still leading the tournament and even when the day wasn't the best one, I'm still hitting good shots and good putts," Quiros said. "So this is the only thing that matters."
For most of the day, Quiros' biggest challenger was playing partner Peter Hanson. But after stringing together three birdies to keep pace, the Swede had a double-bogey on the 16th when his drive ended up under a rake. That opened the door for Lawrie and Oosthuizen.
Oosthuizen holed two birdies on his last three holes, while the 42-year-old Lawrie — who led after the first day — vaulted into second with an eagle on the 18th.
"I had a 3-wood up the hill, hit a nice shot — just trying to keep it around the pin — and holed about a 40-footer, I would say," Lawrie said. "Very unusual but nice to hole a putt of that length. Nice way to finish the day."
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