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Up one in China after yet another 67, McIlroy could be hard to beat Sunday

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Three wins, the FedExCup, and Player of the Year honors may not be enough for Rory McIlroy in 2019.

Off his third consecutive round of 67, McIlroy at 15 under par leads the WGC-HSBC Champions by one through 54 holes in Shanghai.

On Sunday, he’ll try to hold off Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Matthew Fitzpatrick and the rest of the chase pack as he looks to win for the fourth time in a little more than seven months.

His Saturday scorecard didn’t sport as many birdies as did Thursday’s and Friday’s, but it was for the first time this week bogey-free.

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“I feel like I sort of weathered a mini-storm at the start [of the round],” McIlroy said. “My lie at the fist was horrendous and to make 4 from there … I birdied the second, which you should. And then I was in a divot at the third, was able to get that up and down out of the bunker.

“And then, after that, the round started to get going.”

McIlroy built what we called a “gradual round,” picking up shots at Nos. 6, 9, 14 and 18 to edge in front of Oosthuizen and take the outright 54-hole lead.

The Ulsterman has actually won six times on the PGA Tour since he last claimed a European Tour title at the 2016 Irish Open. A victory would add to his win total on both circuits and give him his third World Golf Championship, following the 2014 WGC-Bridgestone and 2015 Match Play. It would also move him closer to Brooks Koepka in his quest to take back the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

McIlroy says the plan for Sunday will simply be to keep the ball in fairway and out of the penal rough at Sheshan International. He mentioned after his round on Saturday that even though some of his quality birdie putts didn’t drop, he nonetheless took advantage of Shenshan’s gettable holes.

If he can play a similar round Sunday and perhaps post his fourth consecutive 67, then it’s going to take something special to pass him.

“If I can just keep it in the fairway – and even that means hitting iron off 10 today, like I did, or laying up on 16 — if I can just get the ball in the fairway, I feel like I can make enough birdies out here to keep my nose in front," he said.

“If I go out tomorrow and replicate what I’ve done the first three days and put another 67 up on the board, I think I’ll be pretty hard to beat.”