Rory McIlroy fired a seven-under-par 65 on Saturday in the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to sit one shot behind leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy is on 16-under 200 overall with the former world No. 1 playing his first event since October.
England’s Fisher also shot a 65, while overnight leader Pieters added a 67 to reach 17-under 199 on a low-scoring day in the absence of any wind at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National Course.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson (68) is five shots behind the leaders.
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood (67) was tied fourth on 201 with Matthew Fitzpatrick, whose nine-under 63 is the lowest round of the tournament so far.
McIlroy finally dropped a shot in the tournament on the par-three 15th when he could not get out of the greenside bunker in one attempt. He made up for this with a chipped-in birdie on the 17th and added another on the par-five 18th.
McIlroy has never finished outside the top five in seven of his last eight starts here.
“I’ve had a lot of close calls here, I think about six top threes or something like that,” he said.
Fisher has been in good form since the second half of 2017, and has risen to 31st in the rankings. However, his last win came back at the 2014 Tshwane Open.
On Saturday, he started with three birdies in first four holes before dropping a shot on the fifth, and then played solid golf and made key par saves in his 65.
“I think a good momentum putt was probably the birdie on eighth,” Fisher said. “We traded birdies, good shots, and just thoroughly enjoyed the guys’ company and look forward to doing it again tomorrow.”
Pieters was disappointed at not making a birdie on the par-five 18th hole to stay one ahead of Fisher.
“A lot of really good shots and then finished poorly,” the Belgian said. “That was a terrible last hole.”
Johnson is tied for 12th with four other players after six birdies and two bogeys.
Ishikawa among leaders in Singapore
Ryo Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage of the Singapore Open on Saturday, raising hopes the former teen prodigy can finally win a tournament away from home.
Ishikawa completed his weather-interrupted second round with a five-under 66 to join Chapchai Nirat in a two-way tie for the lead at seven-under 135 at Sentosa Golf Club.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia was in a five-man group, a further stroke back at 6-under, but on a heavily congested leaderboard where the top 29 players were within three shots of the lead.
Garcia, who held a share of the first-round lead, birdied the final hole to end a run of eight straight pars and shot a second-round 70.