Golf: Hatton in control at Dunhill Links

Tyrrell Hatton during the third round.
Tyrrell Hatton during the third round.PHOTO: REUTERS

KINGSBARNS, United Kingdom (AFP) - Defending champion Tyrrell Hatton will take a commanding five-shot lead into the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship as Rory McIlroy's frustration mounted heading to his last round of the year.

Hatton, 25, didn't drop a shot in seven-under par 65 on the Kingsbarns Links course, which is one of three host venues.

The Englishman returns to the Old Course at St Andrews at an impressive 18-under par, with Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, who recorded a 66 at Carnoustie, in second place on 13-under par.

Hatton has not dropped a shot since the 17th hole on Thursday and has since played the ensuing 37 holes in 15-under par.

"It would be amazing to win again," he said.

"To win at the Home of Golf once, is incredible, but to do it again and defend would be a dream come true.

"Today was a great day. I played really good. Conditions were quite tough towards the end.

"I feel like I did quite well hanging in there, and it was nice to birdie the last."

Twelve months ago, Hatton took a three-shot lead into the final round and eventually won by four.

Since winning a maiden Tour title Hatton has struggled including missing the cut in all four Majors of 2017.

It has only been in the last two events before this week that Hatton has returned to form, sharing third in the European Masters and then sharing eighth place a week ago at the British Masters.

Bourdy capped his round with four birdies in succession from his 12th hole as the 35-year old seeks a fifth Tour title and a first since capturing the 2013 Wales Open.

"Very pleased for sure as Carnoustie is one of my favourite links courses, as well," he said.

"The Old Course is my favourite in the world but this one is not far away behind so I'm very pleased about my first three rounds and finishing on the Old Course tomorrow will be exciting.

"I'm looking forward to have a lovely day, and I will do my best. I will fight from the beginning until the end."

SLUMPED

European Tour number one Tommy Fleetwood slumped from a share of the overnight lead, shooting a four-over 76 also at Kingsbarns to end the round sharing 18th place.

McIlroy is now 18 holes shy of ending his poorest season since 2008 - his first full year in the pro ranks.

His third round was a mix of eight birdies but also two bogeys and an 11th hole double bogey in his round of 68 at Kingsbarns for an overall four-under tally.

McIlroy looked headed in missing the third day cut when he took double-bogey at his 11th hole or the second hole of the course that saw him drop to one-under.

He regrouped with four birdies in succession to move safely to five-under but only to leave a fifth birdie in a row short at his 16th ahead of bogeying the last.

"I just wish I hadn't bogeyed the last but I did what I needed to do to here tomorrow," he said.

"It was a bit of an up-and-down day. I had eight birdies, two bogeys and a double out there, so there's a bit of everything.

"So, glad to get one more round around in at St. Andrews before I call it a season and get ready for next year."