Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Defending champion Stephen Gallacher went 10-under par over the final 10 holes on Saturday as he soared into the lead after three rounds of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Gallacher fired a 9-under 63 in round three to finish 54 holes at 16-under-par 200. With seven birdies and an eagle over his final nine holes, his 9-under total matched the tour record for nine holes.
The Scotsman will go for his third tour title on Sunday, and will attempt to become the first player in event history to successfully defend his title.
Rory McIlroy posted a 3-under 69 in round three. He ended alone in second at minus-14. Thorbjorn Olesen (65) and Brooks Koepka (70) share third place at 12-under-par 204.
Steve Webster fired an 8-under 64 and was leading the tournament when he walked off the course. Robert Rock and Edoardo Molinari both shot 68 to join Webster in fifth place at 11-under 205.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods carded a 2-under 70 to end three rounds tied for 37th at 5-under 211. Woods had four birdies and two bogeys in the first 12 holes, then closed with six pars in a row at Emirates Golf Club.
Woods tripped to a bogey on the third. He came back with birdies at six and eight before stumbling to another bogey at the ninth. Around the turn, Woods started to make a move with birdies at 10 and 12. However, he ran off six straight pars to end his round.
McIlroy missed a short par putt on the first, and that bogey dropped him one behind Webster, who birdied the last three holes. McIlroy bounced back with a birdie on the second and a 12-foot eagle putt on No. 3.
The 2009 champion faltered to a bogey on the sixth and that trimmed his lead to one. Koepka birdied the seventh from the back fringe and followed with a long birdie effort on No. 8 to grab the lead at minus-13.
McIlroy nearly holed his bunker shot on the par-5 10th, but settled for a kick-in birdie. That moved him into a share of the lead with Koepka, who went on to make two birdies and three bogeys in the next five holes to slip to 12- under.
That left it to McIlroy, who stood at minus-13, and Gallacher, who was suddenly hot on his heels.
Gallacher opened with seven pars in a row, then he tripped to a bogey on the eighth. He bounced back with a birdie on the ninth.
Around the turn, Gallacher flew up the leaderboard as he birdied the 10th, 11th and 12th to get to 10-under. The Scotsman converted an eagle effort on the par-5 13th to move within one of McIlroy's lead.
Gallacher dropped in a birdie try on No. 15 to join Koepka and McIlroy in the lead at 13-under. Gallacher followed with another birdie at 16 to grab the lead by one.
At the short par-4 17th, Gallacher chipped within a foot and tapped in for birdie. He closed his magical back nine with a 15-foot birdie putt at the last to head to the clubhouse with a 3-stroke lead.
"I hit it stiff on nine and from then on just kept hitting it close, and if I hit it to 30 feet, I holed it. I was just trying to make as many birdies as I could and get a lead because I found the last time, it's easier when you are leading than chasing," stated Gallacher, who led by three entering the final round last year.
McIlroy got up and down for birdie at the 17th to move within two. He parred the last to end there.
"I'm not 100 percent, but I'm fine. I had a couple of stomach cramps out there, but they are definitely not holding me back," McIlroy said. "I didn't drive the ball particularly well and I felt like I hit a few good putts that didn't drop."
NOTES: This is the second time Gallacher has had the 54-hole on the European Tour. The first time came at his victory at this event last year ... If McIlroy can rally for the win, it would be his sixth tour title.