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November 22, 2009

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Westwood on a roll in Dubai

A FLAWLESS round of 66 by Lee Westwood, and late mistakes by his young Race to Dubai rival Rory McIlroy, gave the Englishman a huge advantage with one round to go in the Dubai World Championship.

Westwood, the 2000 European No. 1, goes into today's final day with a five-stroke lead over McIlroy, the player who heads him on the order of merit, the Race to Dubai.

Although Westwood was caught by McIlroy twice, the second time on the 15th, the 36-year-old Englishman's six-under return in another absorbing day's tussle took him to 15-under-par 201.

He leads by two strokes from his fellow Englishman and third-round playing partner Ross McGowan, who also got a 66.

McIlroy bogeyed the last three holes of the Earth course at Jumeirah Estates to slump to a 69 and share third place with Irish triple major champion Padraig Harrington (69) and Sweden's Alex Noren (67).

The unheralded McGowan, who completed a maiden tour victory at last month's Madrid Masters, took charge of the first nine holes with five birdies, inspiring Westwood to his best.

"The way Ross played I knew I needed to be right on top of my game and it certainly helps when you feed off each other like we did today," Westwood said after completing a card containing six birdies.

Confidence, which has come with a return to the winner's podium recently at the Portugal Masters, and experience gained over the years should stand him in good stead in the final round, he said.

"I'll just keep to my game plan; people slip up when they try to do things differently," Westwood added. "I finish tournaments off better than most and looking at the leaderboard there aren't many on there that have won 30 times."

Northern Irishman McIlroy, who started the tournament 128,173 euros (US$190,563) ahead of Westwood on the money list, pushed his more experienced opponent all the way until the closing three holes.

On the 16th he overshot the green and chipped long from the water's edge. He three-putted the short 17th and hit his third shot into the hazard on the last. "I'd got myself just where I wanted to be and then it went wrong," said McIlroy, 20. "You can either dwell on it or fight back. If I birdie the first three holes tomorrow all the damage is forgotten."


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