ABU DHABI • Rory McIlroy need not have bothered to tell reporters that he is feeling "rejuvenated and refocused".
Demonstration of that has been delivered clearly at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, with the Northern Irishman's round-on--round improvement continuing into yesterday.
From the earlier position of his fitness and attitude being questioned, it would now be a disappointment to McIlroy, 28, if he does not mark this return to competitive action with victory.
He will begin the final round one from the lead - held by Thomas Pieters and Ross Fisher - after backing up the promise of a 69 and 66 with a 65. Pieters, who signed for a third round of 67, and Fisher (65) are at 17-under 199.
McIlroy is quite right to point to the long game, of setting standards upon this comeback he hopes will resonate for the remainder of his career.
Still, there is little doubt that plenty have eyes firmly fixed on the potentially seismic story of a first victory after 16 injury-disrupted months.
"It was another great round and another really good confidence builder," McIlroy said.
"Not just for this week but for the rest of the season.
"Winning would mean a lot. I've never won my first start back out. It's felt like awhile since I've won and just to give myself these chances.
"I felt really comfortable, really relaxed. I haven't been looking at leaderboards too much. Just been trying to play my game, and it's going pretty well so far, so I'll try and do the same thing."
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson's 68 means he is not out of the equation at -12, but McIlroy is still the man to watch today.
ABU DHABI GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
Day 4: StarHub Ch204, 4.30pm