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Mistake-free McIlroy in driver's seat in Shanghai

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Shanghai (AFP)

Rory McIlroy shot a bogey-free 67 on Saturday to seize the lead going into the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions as he continues a quest to retake the world's top ranking.

Now the world number two, McIlroy said this week he hopes to do well in Shanghai as he tries to chase down current number one Brooks Koepka.

The 30-year-old Northern Irishman did not drop a stroke, and took sole possession of the lead with his last shot of the day, rolling in a birdie on the par-5 18th.

He finished with his third straight five-under par 67 of the week to move to -15 at the Sheshan International Golf Club

Joining him in the leader's trio on Sunday will be fellow Major winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who shot the lowest round of the day at 65 after birdying the first five holes to jump up the leaderboard early.

Last year's winner Xander Schauffele of the United States was two strokes off McIlroy's pace, in a tie with England's Matthew Fitzpatrick.

China's top-ranked golfer Li Haotong, who delighted crowds by surging to the first-round lead with an impressive 64, has come crashing back to earth.

After an even par in the second round, a disastrous triple bogey on the par-four 13th hole on Saturday knocked him from the top of the leaderboard.

He finished with a two-over 74, and will start Sunday eight strokes off the leaders.

McIlroy's consistently strong play in 2019 saw him take home the FedEx Cup and the PGA Tour Player of the Year award, which he said had motivated him to move to number one in the world, possibly early next year.

He is yet to win the Shanghai event's $1.7 million victor's reward.

Oosthuizen, the world number 26 who won the British Open in 2010, broke a near three-year winless drought earlier in 2019 by taking the South African Open.

The tournament features 15 past Major winners including Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth.

Koepka and a resurgent Tiger Woods, who won a record 82nd PGA Tour victory on Monday in Japan, are absent.

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