Updated: Saturday, 01 February 2014 18:16 | By Agence France-Presse

Eagle lifts McIlroy clear in Dubai

Rory McIlroy put daylight between himself and the rest of the field early in his third round at the Dubai Desert Classic on Saturday.


Eagle lifts McIlroy clear in Dubai

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees a shot during the second round of the 2014 Omega Dubai Desert Classic on January 31, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates - by Marwan Naamani

Leading by one overnight on 11-under, the Irishman bogeyed the first for the second straight day, missing a six-footer, but birdied the second and then a superb second to eight feet set up an eagle at the third.

Playing partner Brooks Koepka, who started the day one back, birdied the second but then bogeyed the fourth to stay at 10 under and McIlroy was two clear of the field.

Englishman Steve Webster had earlier shown the way to low scoring at the Emirates Club's immaculate Majlis Course with a tremendous round of 64 - the second best of the tournament so far.

Webster landed five birdies and an eagle in the space of eight holes from the sixth and then birdied the last three as he bounded up the leaderboard to join McIlroy at 11 under.

"Took me 10 minutes to work out my scorecard there," the Englishman said.

"Obviously played great, a couple of silly holes, but I hit a lot of great shots and made the putts and felt really good."

South Africans Dawie Van der Walt (65) and Darren Fichardt (66) also both went low to get to nine under.

Still out on the course, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen was at 10 under through 11 and Italian Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari was nine under after seven.

Tiger Woods' hopes of winning the Dubai Desert Classic for a record-equalling third time were all but quashed meanwhile after he carded a third round of 70.

It was an improved performance compared to the day before for the world number one, but he was left trailing tournament leader McIlory by six strokes and the Northern Irishman had yet to tee off.

Woods said after his second round that he needed "two great rounds" at the weekend to have any chance of winning once again at the Gulf region's premiere golf tournament.

And while he did manage four birdies going out early in the morning they were offset by two bogeys which prevented him from mounting a real charge up the leaderboard.

"Wasted a lot of opportunities out there," said Woods of his round.

"I only hit a couple of bad shots, missed a ton of putts and just threw away a lot of shots."

Woods missed the cut in his first tournament of the year at Torrey Pines last week and admits that he is struggling to get his game together after a long winter break.

His primary target is the year's first major, the Masters, at Augusta National in early April where he is hoping to win for a fifth time and take his 15th major title, nearly six years after his last win.

The 38-year-old Woods is chasing the all-time majors record haul of 18 set by Jack Nicklaus at the 1986 Masters when he was 46.

In contrast to Woods' struggles early on in the new season, McIlroy has been in outstanding form and a second Dubai Desert Classic crown on Sunday after 2009 would make it two wins and a second for him in his last three tournaments.

In 23-year-old Koepka, however, he was up against an unconventional player a year younger than him and who is at least able to match him for length off the tee.

Unusually the Floridian opted to play on the secondary European Challenge tour immediately after leaving his US college.

He won four times on that circuit to qualify for the main tour this year and is already showing how good he is.

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