Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Rory McIlroy recorded his second straight bogey-free round on Saturday and his 6-under 66 on day three has moved him four shots clear heading into the final round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
McIlroy finished his third round at 20-under-par 196, which is four strokes better than Morten Orum Madsen. McIlroy has nine career wins on the European Tour, with four of them coming last season. The five-time major champion earned his first professional victory at this event back in 2009.
"To be bogey-free again today was important to me, especially when you're going out with the lead," said McIlroy. "I'm very happy. I feel like I could be a little bit more but I'm not going to complain. I'm four ahead going into the final day, so I've put myself in a great position to win tomorrow."
After shooting a 63 on Friday, Madsen matched McIlroy with a 66 of his own on day three and moved into sole possession of second place at 16-under 200. Two shots further back is 23-time tour winner Lee Westwood (69) at 14-under 202.
Two-time defending champion Stephen Gallacher, first-round leader Bernd Wiesberger, Andy Sullivan and Danny Willett all fired matching, 2-under 70s and are tied for fourth at 13-under 203.
McIlroy, last year's British Open and PGA Championship winner, started the day with a 1-shot lead and quickly widened the gap. The 25-year-old Ulsterman jumped out to a fast start when he drained birdies on one, three and five to go along with pars on two, four and six.
Following the par on No. 6, McIlroy poured in back-to-back gains on seven and eight before finishing his front nine with a par on nine.
Making the turn with a 4-shot lead, it seemed as if McIlroy would extend his advantage even more on the back nine, but he slowed down a bit down the stretch. McIlroy made eight straight pars from No. 9 and saw his lead whittled down to three when Madsen birdied the last.
McIlroy broke the par streak when he drained a birdie putt from about 15 feet on the par-4 17th, moving his advantage back to four.
Now on the par-5 18th, a hole he had birdied in 14 of his last 18 rounds prior to Saturday, McIlroy found the water with his second shot and was in danger of making bogey. McIlroy remained calm, however, as his fourth shot landed about 10 feet from the hole and he knocked that in for par to make it 36 straight holes without a bogey.
"Not to make any mistakes makes it that much harder for anyone else," McIlroy said. "Just to get that up-and-down on the last was big for momentum going into tomorrow ... I just have to go and try and play similar golf to the way I have the first three days."
Madsen, who holds the week's low round with his 63 Friday, also went bogey- free and may stand the best chance of catching McIlroy on Sunday. Madsen started with a pair of pars on one and two before making his first birdie on No. 3. He then wrapped four more pars on four, five, seven and eight around a gain on No. 6.
The 26-year-old from Denmark made the turn in style with back-to-back birdies on nine and 10. Following his fifth gain of the day on 13, Madsen rattled off four straight pars from 14 before closing with a birdie at the last to pull within three of McIlroy at the time.
Three shots behind McIlroy to start the day, Westwood had a strong start to his round before struggling a bit in the middle. Westwood made a pair of birdies on two and three, but he made a mess of No. 9 and settled for double- bogey as the Englishman made the turn at even par.
A birdie on 10 got Westwood back into red figures and he traded a bogey on 12 for a birdie on 13. Westwood finished well to give himself an outside shot going into Sunday as three pars from 14 preceded back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18, putting him six strokes behind McIlroy.
NOTES: McIlroy's last bogey came on the par-4 ninth hole, his last, in the first round ... McIlroy finished his third round just one shot off of Gallacher's 54-hole record of 195. Gallacher also tied the tournament record of 266 that year in his first of two consecutive victories here ... McIlroy has finished runner-up in each of the last four events he has played in ... Madsen is seeking his second victory on tour, with his lone win coming at the South African Open Championship last season ... Westwood's last win was at the Maybank Malaysian Open last year.