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January 27, 2018

Rory McIlroy

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Q. What do you make of a third round 68?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, hopefully that's the bad one out of the way. I didn't get off to too bad a start, just a couple of loose ones. Missed a short one on 4 and made bogey on 8. That wasn't too good. But to come back with a 5-under back nine was good. It was good to knock that birdie in at the last and stay within one of Li.

But yeah, hopefully I'll probably need to play a bit better tomorrow to win, but you know, it's two weeks into the season and this is I've given myself a second chance to win a tournament. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Q. You must be pleased with your battling qualities.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, 1-over through nine, and then yeah, as I said, to play a 5-under back nine; the back nine's been good to me this week. I just need to figure out how to play the front a bit better. Hopefully get off to a good start tomorrow.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I showed that even whenever I didn't have my best stuff today, I was able to battle around and get in at a decent score. So hopefully I have a bit of a better game tomorrow.

Q. How much are you looking forward to the challenge of chasing down a third title here?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. It would be great to put my name on that trophy for a third time. This is one of my favourite tournaments of the year, a place I've always done well at, some good memories. You know, hopefully, and maybe that experience of winning a couple of times around here, you know, being in contention quite a lot, will help me tomorrow.

Q. How impressed were you by Li Haotong's game out there this afternoon?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, he was very good, very solid. Drives it well. Hits his irons well. He putted very well, actually. He held everything he sort of needed to.

So yeah, I know that if he continues to play like that, he'll be tough to beat tomorrow, but I feel like if I play my game, I've got a good chance.

Q. Finally, how is the body feeling after playing 25 holes today?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, great. Feels great. Contemplating actually going and hitting some balls after this to try and iron out a couple of kinks, but yeah, feels really good.

Q. Give us your thoughts on that round.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, back nine was good. Front nine, not so much. Just made a couple of sloppy mistakes on the front. Yeah, hopefully that's the bad -- not the bad round, it still is a good round, 68. But I feel like if I play my game I should be able to shoot something a bit lower tomorrow and I feel like I'll need something a bit lower to win.

Li played really well out there today, and if he continues to play like that, I'm going to have to shoot something similar to what he shot today.

Q. You've played some pretty magical stuff already since you've come back. I have to ask you about the front nine. Can you put your finger on anything?
RORY McILROY: Not particularly. I know the front nine played pretty tough. They set the golf course up pretty tough on the front nine with before some of the pins were. But just sloppy; I didn't make birdie on the third hole, the par 5, and a short missed putt on 4, and then struggling to get any momentum going.

Really bad second shot on the eighth hole and that led to a bogey. I feel like I've made a good 2-putt on 9, and then I sort of had a little talk to myself and played the back nine much better, and the quality of the golf was much better, as well, which I was happy with.

I feel like my game's in good shape and that wasn't a true reflection of where my game's at. I thought the back nine was much better.

Q. And tomorrow?
RORY McILROY: Go out and try and make as many birdies as possible. Scores are so low out there. I think it might be a bit windier tomorrow and that might play a factor. But I think with the greens being quite firm, just hit the ball in the fairway something I didn't do in Abu Dhabi in the final round last week.

So if I can put the ball in the fairway tomorrow and give myself chances to stop it on the greens, you know, hopefully I'll do okay.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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