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DUBAI (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy made double bogeys on successive holes in the third round of the $8 million DP World Tour Championship on Saturday, slipping four strokes behind joint-leaders Henrik Stenson and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
World number one McIlroy began two shots adrift of Sweden's Stenson, but the Northern Irishman sunk birdies on holes 5-7 and another at 10 to pull level. Then came 20 minutes of golf that will haunt McIlroy.
On the par-four 12, the 25-year-old found the bunker, recovered to within 30 feet of the pin, but rolled a putt six feet long and then missed again going back the other way.
At the par-three 13, McIlroy’s tee-shot found the gallery and twice he underplayed chips before double-putting. He sunk birdies on 14 and 18 -- the latter after fluffing an eagle chance -- for 70 and a 10-under 206.
“I’ll try to get off to a fast start, put some pressure on," McIlroy told reporters. "I can't afford to stay patient tomorrow. I need to get some birdies from the off.”
Defending champion Stenson, 38, sunk four birdies to card 68 and a 14-under 202. He has not dropped a shot for 32 holes.
“I was back to hitting it really good and had quite a few chances, but wasn't as hot on the greens as yesterday,” Stenson told reporters.
“There are still a bunch of guys that could get a hot streak and catch us. I could play the golf of my life and still be beaten or I could play solid and still win.”
Spain’s Cabrera-Bello (65) is level with Stenson on 202, Justin Rose (68) is on 205 and four players are a stroke further back -- McIlroy, Victor Dubuisson (67), Tyrrell Hatton (68), Thorbjorn Olesen (69).
McIlroy, already crowned European money list winner for a second season in three, began tentatively, his tee-shot on the bunker-laden first hole finding the rough as he eventually made par.
The official shade temperature was around 31 degrees Celsius, but on-course it was much hotter and McIlroy was already pulling at his sweat-soaked red shirt on the second tee.
McIlroy drifted a 40-foot birdie chance inches wide on four, but Stenson remained in the four-time major winner’s sights.
Reporting by Matt Smith; editing by Toby Davis