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McIlroy moves into Irish Open contention as Lee stirs

AP PHOTO

Rory McIlroy has overcome a broken club and more drama on the 16th hole to surge into contention for a second Irish Open title at The K Club, while Australian Min Woo Lee also made strides on moving day.

Eight shots behind at the halfway stage, McIlroy took full advantage of a stuttering display from the leaders on Saturday to post a third round of 66 and reach 11 under par, two shots behind Germany's Hurly Long.

Western Australian Lee shot a three-under 69 to move within four shots of Long, going into the final round in joint-10th place.

Long, ranked 252nd in the world and without a top-25 finish this season, recorded a 70 to end the day 13 under, a shot ahead of England's Jordan Smith.

The final group of Smith, Shubhankar Sharma and Ross Fisher were a combined nine over par for the front nine and six over par at the finish, Sharma and Fisher dropping into a six-way tie for fourth on 10 under.

McIlroy was already five under for the day when he stood over his second shot to the par-five 16th, where he holed out from 116 yards for an eagle on Friday and which he birdied in 2016 to kickstart his victory push.

It was a completely different story on Saturday, however, the four-time major winner pushing his second shot into the water and seeing his fourth from the drop zone hit a rock on the edge of the hazard but luckily bounce on to the putting surface.

McIlroy narrowly missed the long par attempt but responded superbly with birdies on the 17th and 18th, the latter courtesy of a 346-yard drive and nine-iron approach to the 548-yard par-five.

"To bounce back with the two birdies on 17 and 18 after putting the ball in the water on 16 was huge, so overall a great day's play," McIlroy said.

"It's hard to try to win your national Open and try to get over the line. I'm excited to have another opportunity.

McIlroy revealed he had broken his three-wood after hitting a poor tee shot on the sixth, admitting: "I went to hit the top of that tee-marker and I caught the corner with the bottom of the shaft.

"It was just a flick. I've done it a couple of times before this week and everything went okay, but that one didn't."

Lee's seven birdies were offset by four bogeys as he served up some mixed fare while fellow Aussie Jason Scrivener slipped back to three under overall after a four-over 76.