sport

Star duo in victory push

A dream scenario for tournament sponsors was unfolding on Sunday as Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson were pushing for victory in Abu Dhabi.

McIlroy began the day three shots behind overnight leader Craig Lee, but with the extra motivation of making up for being penalised two shots in the third round for an incorrect drop on the second hole.

The former world number one hit out at one of golf's "stupid rules" and vowed to get the strokes back as soon as possible on Sunday, although a birdie on the second was cancelled out by a bogey on the fifth when a wild drive hit a cart path and bounded into trouble.

Birdies at the seventh and eighth took McIlroy to 11 under par and briefly into a share of the lead, but Mickelson - playing in the group behind - had also birdied the second and recovered from a wayward drive on the eighth to make another.

At 12 under par, the Open champion led by one from McIlroy and Spain's Pablo Larrazabal, with Lee slipping back to 10 under alongside Joost Luiten, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Miguel Angel Jimenez after dropped shots on the fourth and fifth.

McIlroy looked to have squandered a birdie chance on the par-five 10th with a poor pitch that only just crept over a greenside bunker, but holed from 20ft to join Mickelson and South African George Coetzee in the lead.

Coetzee had gone to the turn in 33 and then rolled in a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th to wipe out his six-shot deficit at the start of the day.

Mickelson reclaimed the outright lead with a birdie on the 10th, but then

imploded in spectacular fashion on the 13th.

After his drive finished underneath a bush, Mickelson declined to take a penalty drop and attempted to play the shot right-handed, but saw the ball hit a branch and rebound back onto his club.

That 'double hit' still left the ball in trouble and led to another right-handed escape shot, after which the 43-year-old found the green with his fifth shot and two-putted for a triple-bogey seven.

Back to 10 under par, Mickelson was now three shots off the lead held by Larrazabal, with Coetzee and McIlroy a shot behind on 12 under.

In typical fashion Mickelson bounced straight back with a birdie on the 14th to move to 11 under, one behind clubhouse leader Coetzee who had completed a flawless 66.

Larrazabal narrowly missed a long birdie putt on the 16th to remain 13 under, but playing partner McIlroy saved par from a greenside bunker to remain just one shot behind.