A SENSATIONAL scoring burst gave Stephen Gallacher the chance to become the first player to successfully defend the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Saturday.
Gallacher looked out of contention when he played the first eight holes of his third round at Emirates Golf Club in one over par to lie seven shots off the lead.
But the 39-year-old Scot then played the remaining 10 holes in 10 under, following a birdie on the ninth with seven more and an eagle in a brilliant back nine of 28.
Asked to explain the change in fortunes, Gallacher told Sky Sports: “I don’t really know to be honest. It was quite a struggle to start with, especially the first three holes.
“I hit it stiff on nine and from then on just kept hitting it close, and if I hit it to 30ft 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.
“There’s a lot of golf left to go but I will certainly be giving it my best shot.”
Gallacher’s total of 16 under par gave him a three-shot lead over former world number one Rory McIlroy, who had three holes of his round remaining.
McIlroy said he expected to win the title for the second time after taking the lead into the third round, but the Northern Irishman was some way off the brilliant form which saw him card an opening 63 on Thursday.
He did eagle the par-five third for the second time this week, but also bogeyed the first and sixth and had so far found just one birdie - on the 10th - on the back nine that Gallacher had torn apart.
Playing partner Brooks Koepka had been outshining McIlroy until bogeys on the 14th and 15th dropped him back to 12 under.
McIlroy closed the gap with a birdie on the short par-four 17th - where 2.5million US dollars is on offer for a hole-in-one over the weekend - but was unable to repeat the trick on the 18th.
That meant a round of 69 and a total of 14 under par, two behind Gallacher heading into the final round.