Harding the man to beat in Dubai

South Africa’s Justin Harding (11/4 Tournament Outright) will take a two-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the Dubai Desert Classic, with some of Europe’s brightest stars breathing down his neck.

Harding fired home his worst round of the weekend, but his 71 was enough to sit two shots clear of Rory McIlroy (pictured), with the Northern Irishman now the  2/1 outright favourite after moving into contention with a 69 on Saturday.

While some of his rivals endured roller-coaster rounds, Harding toughed his way around the Emirates Golf Club, and he will start Sunday’s final 18 holes on 12-under par.

Harding’s fellow countryman, Erik Van Rooyen, shares third with Tommy Fleetwood (7/1 Outright), while Tyrrell Hatton is one of six players who share fifth place.

Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood share 11th place on seven-under-par, but they could still close the gap on Sunday morning.

Harding will be under immense pressure when play resumes, but the two-time DP World Tour winner insists he is not fazed by the challenge in front of him.

He told reporters: “At the end of the day, I’ve just got to go out and keep doing what I’m doing and make a couple of birdies and shoot 70, 69, something like that. Make them shoot five or six under par and credit to them.

“I’m quite happy with it and go again tomorrow. I thought I played quite solid. It was a difficult day, to be fair, some tough flags to get at. There were times when I didn’t quite put the ball in play, and I couldn’t really go anywhere near them.”

McIlroy could become the second man after South African Ernie Els to win the trophy three times if he succeeds this weekend, and the world number eight says he cannot wait to get back on the course.

“I’m excited,” said McIlroy. “I had a really good chance back in 2018. I sort of let it slip through my fingers there, and Li Haotong won. It’s nice to be able to give myself another opportunity.”

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