By Matt Smith
DUBAI (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy made double bogeys on successive holes at the third round of the $8 million DP World Tour Championship on Saturday, slipping four strokes behind joint-leaders Henrik Stenson and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
World number one McIlroy began two shots adrift of Sweden's Stenson, but the Northern Irishman sunk three successive birdies on holes 5-7 and another at 10 to pull level. Then came 20 minutes of golf that will haunt McIlroy.
On the par-four 12, the 25-year-old found the bunker, recovered to within 30 feet of the pin, but rolled a putt six feet long and then missed again going back the other way.
At the par-three 13, McIlroy’s tee-shot found the gallery and twice he underplayed chips before double-putting. He sunk birdies on 14 and 18 -- the latter after fluffing an eagle chance -- for 70 and a 10-under 206.
Defending champion Stenson, 38, was steady throughout his round, sinking four birdies to card 68 and a 14-under 202. He has not dropped a shot for 32 holes.
Spain’s Cabrera-Bello (65) is level with Stenson on 202, Justin Rose (68) is on 205 and four players are a stroke further back -- McIlroy, Victor Dubiusson (67), Tyrrell Hatton (68), Thorbjorn Olesen (69).
McIlroy, already crowned European money list winner for a second season in three, began tentatively, his tee-shot on the bunker-laden first hole finding the rough as he eventually made par.
The official shade temperature was around 31 degrees Celsius, but on-course it was several degrees higher and McIlroy was already pulling at his sweat-soaked red shirt on the second tee.
One practice swing, a wiggle of the hips and he launched his shot, ultimately missing a seven-foot birdie that lipped out.
McIlroy drifted a 40-foot birdie chance inches wide on four, but Stenson remained in the four-time major winner’s sights.
On the par-three fourth, Stenson's tee shot missed the green, but he birdie-chipped in from 25 feet to move 11-under for the tournament.
Whether McIlroy was aware of that or not, he immediately found his swagger, rolling in an eight-foot putt at the fifth that marked the start of a three-hole birdie run to level briefly with Stenson.
(Reporting by Matt Smith; editing by Toby Davis)