(Reuters) - Shane Lowry will take a three-shot advantage into the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after the Irishman posted a five-under-par 67 on Friday.
Lowry, chasing his first European Tour crown since 2015, showcased his impressive short-game skills on a breezy afternoon, carding seven birdies on his way to 17-under overall.
Playing in his first event since the World Cup of Golf in November, Lowry matched the course record at Abu Dhabi Golf Club with an opening round 62 and followed it up with a 70 on Thursday.
"It's been a while since I've been up having a lead going into (the final day)," the 31-year-old said.
"I'll enjoy it, have a nice dinner tonight and get ready and give it my best tomorrow and see what happens.
"We're in a world-class field here this week so I know they are going to come out firing tomorrow."
South African Richard Sterne was Lowry's nearest challenger on 14-under, courtesy of a stunning eagle at the 10th where he holed his third shot from the fairway.
Sterne has not been a tournament winner since the Joburg Open in 2013, and remains keen to make up for lost time by clinching his seventh European Tour title on Saturday.
"I've managed to win a few in my life, so hopefully there's something left there and if we can have a chance coming down the last five or six, that would be a nice way to finish," the 37-year-old added.
World number two Brooks Koepka signed for a mixed bag 70 to share ninth spot at nine-under, while twice defending champion Tommy Fleetwood was a further six shots behind after a second consecutive level-par 72.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)