Li Haotong in third-round action

Li has had 24 birdies in the first three rounds at the Emirates Golf Club

China’s Li Haotong eclipsed Rory McIlroy to take a one-shot advantage at 20 under after the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy birdied five of the seven second round holes he had to finish on Saturday morning after fog delayed proceedings the previous day.

That left him two ahead and he soon moved three shots clear in round three.

But Li, 22, had six birdies in a bogey-free eight-under 64 to edge ahead of McIlroy going into the final round.

Frenchman Alexander Levy had a hole-in-one and briefly shared the lead, but a 65 left him three shots behind in joint third.

Players were grouped in threes with a two-tee start at the Emirates Golf Club to compensate for Friday’s fog delays.

McIlroy’s four-under 68 saw him recover from two early dropped shots to eagle the 549-yard 10th from eight feet, tap in for a birdie at the par five 13th and hole from around four feet for birdies at the 16th and the last.

But Li, the world number 60, who won the 2016 China Open and made headlines in June when he threw his putter in a lake at the French Open only for it to be fished out by his mother, took the outright lead at the eighth with a birdie from eight feet, his fourth of the day.

Rory McIlroy in third-round action

McIlroy had a mixed third round of three birdies, two bogeys and an eagle

He started the back nine with three birdies in four holes and added another at the 564-yard final hole, when he found the green with a drive and seven iron.

The third member of the final group, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who carded a 62 to lead on day one, dropped only two shots in his first 41 holes of the tournament.

But on Saturday he saw four slip away in the next five and was behind a bush in the sand, out of bounds off the tee and in the water en route to a three-over 75, which left him in joint 35th place.

Levy recorded his ace with a nine iron at the 171-yard fourth, the 26th in the history of the tournament and the 1005th on the European Tour.

The world number 67 added five consecutive birdies from the ninth before successive bogeys checked his charge.

Sullivan ignites challenge with 63

England’s Andy Sullivan, the world number 145 from Nuneaton, produced the round of the day, with 10 birdies, including seven in his final 10 holes, in a 63 that took him to fifth place, four behind Li.

Fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton birdied the first four holes and eagled the last for a 66 to share sixth, five off the lead.

World number 58 Ian Poulter, who eagled the last on Friday to ensure he survived the cut, is one further back after eight birdies in a 65.

News Reporter

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