Former world number one Jon Rahm produced a combative, bogey-free round of seven under par 65 to top the $10 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Saturday.
The 2021 US Open winner has a one-stroke lead over 2022 US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, while Rory McIlroy is still two strokes down his neck.
All three also want to become the tournament’s first three-time champion.
Fitzpatrick and McIlroy, meanwhile, are two of seven players in the field battling to win the Race to Dubai.
With two others, Adrian Meronk and Tommy Fleetwood, both two strokes behind McIlroy at 10-under, there is every chance for a thrilling final round on Sunday.
McIlroy must finish ahead of Ryan TBEN and Fitzpatrick to become only the second player after Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in 2013 to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same season.
The Northern Irishman, who had completed his round on Friday with a birdie-birdie-eagle finish, overcame a stuttering start as he put an eagle in second with bogeys on first and third.
But otherwise he was brilliant in a round of 65 to finish tied for fourth with 12 under par.
“It’s been a little bit better. I thought the last three holes from yesterday could really give me a little bit of momentum, and I brought that in today,” said the 33-year-old.
“I know how to shoot low scores here and I know how to make birdies. It was just a matter of getting out of myself. The last 21 holes went a lot better.
“I just have to keep putting the ball in play off the tee and on the fairway and give myself plenty of chances from there.”
Rahm, who is not in contention for the Race to Dubai title, is enjoying the challenge of the Earth course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates – his worst score in 14 rounds on the course is a 70.
“Couldn’t be more contrary to the second round feeling,” said the Spaniard.
“I don’t think I could have shot lower today. I maximized the round.
“I hope, come tomorrow, I can be a little better off the tee, and still keep the good iron play and good putting.”
– Fitzpatrick ‘patience’ –
Fitzpatrick, the joint leader at the halfway point with his compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, was off color at the start as he made the turn one over par and fell four shots off the lead. But his new found golf wisdom paid off.
“Something I’ve learned a lot this year is to be more patient,” he said.
“I’m not the best at it, but I can do so much better.
“I think that’s been really important – just being patient and knowing that I’m playing good golf.”
Fitzpatrick recovered to go around in 70 but was still frustrated by a par on the par-5 18th hole as he drove into the water and missed the chance to tie with Rahm.
At 14-under par, he was two ahead of McIlroy and Hatton, who made four bogeys and relinquished his lead.
Swede Alex Noren (68) was in third place only with 13-under par 203.
This week’s winner will receive a $3 million check, while the top eight players from the Race to Dubai will share a $3 million bonus pool, with the winner receiving $1 million.