Dubai: Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher could become the first golfer to defend his Omega Dubai Desert Classic crown after a sublime third round 63 fired him into a two-stroke lead at 16-under par here on Saturday.
The 39-year-old started the day four strokes behind overnight leader Rory McIlroy and dropped to six shots adrift after the Northern Irishman eagled the third hole.
However, Gallacher, who followed an opening round’s 66 with a disappointing 71 on Friday, rocketed five positions up the leader board to first on Saturday after recovering from a bogey on the eighth hole to make up 10 strokes over his last 10 holes.
He shot four straight birdies from the ninth hole onwards, eagled the 13th hole and hit another four consecutive birdies over the back four holes.
McIlroy wasn’t firing as effectively and despite recovering from an opening bogey with a birdie and an eagle, he got one more bogey on his onward nine before two birdies on his return for 69. “It means everything to win any week but to defend would just be a bit of an added bonus,” said Gallacher, who won here by three strokes at 22-under par last year.
“There’s still a lot of golf to go. But the main thing is after the front nine if you had given me contention, I’d have been delighted, but to be in proper contention, I have a good chance.”
Of his contrasting round he said: “I think it was somebody else who came out on the back nine. I don’t know what happened, I was all over the place the first two or three holes and then it just started to click and I started to hit the ball really well.
“I think that’s the best back nine I’ve ever played. I’ve had 10-under or nine-under rounds here last year so it’s just one of those places where I seem to throw low numbers.”
Gallacher then added that memories of last year’s victory would inspire him to carry this form into the final round. “I’ve got good memories and good thoughts of what’s happened the year before,” he said. “It can sort of lift you, lift you out of your game, because you’ve obviously shot well under here.
“There’s putts you’ve holed and drives you’ve hit and chips you’ve holed. I’m just trying to think of the good things I’ve done around here all the time and hopefully they can bring you out.”