Rory McIlroy is going to have to fight for his first win of 2014

Rory McIlroy's 69 was no match for Stephen Gallacher in Dubai. (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy's 69 was no match for Stephen Gallacher in Dubai. (Getty Images)

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If Rory McIlroy loses the Dubai Desert Classic he'll look back on his Friday 70 as the moment he should have put the tournament away.

An ailing McIlroy left the door open, though, and on Saturday Stephen Gallacher strolled through it with a third-round 63 that included a 28 on the back nine and gave him a two-shot lead over McIlroy (Gallacher is 16 under and McIlroy is 14 under). 

McIlroy shot a fine 69 but it was no match for Gallacher on a day where you could really get after it in Dubai. 

Gallacher was 10 under (!) over his last 10 holes with eight birdies, an eagle, and a par. Here's a look at his very red scorecard:


Defending champ Gallacher said the back nine was the best he's ever played.

"This is the best back nine I've had in my career by far," said Gallacher. "So to get myself back into contention when I needed to, and given the stature of this tournament, it feels good."

He also said he didn't know where the red-hot stretch came from, either.

"I don't really know to be honest. It was quite a struggle to start with, especially the first three holes. I was not quite right but if you stay patient and keep focused it's amazing what this game throws up."

Sure is...

But there's still a long way to go and it's McIlroy that has been more steady for the week, despite some apparent food poisoning after Thursday's 63.

"My stomach is better today, still not 100 percent but it's better than it was yesterday," McIlroy said. "I feel like I can catch him (Gallacher) up tomorrow. I don't really want to focus on what he's doing, try to focus on my own thing."

McIlroy actually played pretty well and didn't card a bogey on his final nine. But it was no match for Gallacher's 63.

"I felt like I left a few out there but it was a tricky day and shooting anything under 70 wasn't a bad score. Obviously Stephen had a phenomenal round, 63 today is a really impressive effort."

It's good for McIlroy to be pushed a little bit. I think that's when he's at his absolute best. He knows how good he is and, more importantly, how good he can (and needs to) be.

Gallacher and McIlroy make up 40 percent of the champions at this tournament in the last half decade and with nobody else within two strokes of McIlroy (and four of Gallacher) I see no reason that won't continue through this year. 

A pair of smoking-hot golfers in the Dubai desert for their first European Tour title of 2014. It should be all kinds of fun.

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnGolf and @KylePorterCBS on Twitter or Google+ and like us on Facebook.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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