By Matt Smith
DUBAI (Reuters) - Champion Stephen Gallacher amassed seven birdies and an eagle on the back nine on Saturday, tying a European Tour record, as the scintillating Scot snatched the Dubai Desert Classic third-round lead from Rory McIlroy.
Gallacher, 39, blitzed his way to a nine-under-par 63 - the joint lowest round of this year's event - to finish with a 16-under total of 200, two clear of world number six McIlroy having started the day four adrift.
"It was a bit of a struggle to start with especially the first three holes," the leader told reporters.
"I never found the fairway. Then I hit it stiff at nine and from then on I kept hitting it close and if I hit it to 30 feet I holed it.
"I found last year it's easier when you're leading rather than chasing so I tried to get as many birdies as I could. I didn't want to count them up," said world number 67 Gallacher.
McIlroy carded a birdie on the 17th to add some lustre to another frustrating round for the twice major winner who returned a 69 after finding only four fairways and missing a series of middle-distance putts.
Playing partner Brooks Koepka (70) of the United States and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen (65) share third spot on 204.
"I didn't drive the ball particularly well. I'm probably going to work on a few things on the range and I also felt like I hit a lot of good putts and they just didn't go in," said Northern Irishman McIlroy.
"I got off to another shaky start...the conditions were tricky out there, it was breezy. It was tough to get close to some of these pins."
McIlroy, seeking his first European Tour victory in 14 months, went close to claiming the $2.5 million prize for a hole-in-one at the par-four 17th.
His tee shot just missed the cup as fiancee Caroline Wozniacki looked on.
"You can't really see the pin," said McIlroy. "I saw the pitch mark and it must have just run past the hole - it could have paid for my wedding."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)