Rory McIlroy leads the Dubai Desert Classic into the weather-delayed final round by three shots despite dumping his second into the water guarding the 18th green on Monday (AEDT).After the bogey on his last hole, the world No1 signed for a third round seven-under-par 65.Watch every round of the PGA Tour LIVE & Exclusive on Fox Sports, available on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >That helped McIlroy move to 15-under ahead of Monday’s conclusion — three clear of English duo Callum Shinkwin (67) and Dan Bradbury (68) tied for second at 12 under.For McIlroy it was a sense of deja vu as last year he found the same water on the 18th to eventually lose the Desert Classic title to Viktor Hovland.“I’m always going to hit good enough shots to make birdies and hole some putts but keeping the mistakes off your card is the secret for me,” said McIlroy, a two-time winner of the tournament.He added: “I made one bogey out there today, which I’m pretty frustrated about. You know, the other 17 holes were very good.“Overall, it was much better today. I need to go out and do the same tomorrow.” The four-time major champion was excited about securing a win in his first start of the season for the first time in his career.Rahm gets a roll on at Torrey Pines | 00:57MORE COVERAGEAussie ‘moving in the right direction’ as US star secures epic come-from-behind $12m victoryMcIlroy avoids pairing with golf villain … but ‘rusty’ No. 1 battles in bid to end 14-year curse‘There’s no way’: McIlroy’s stunning three-hole blitz as superstar shuts down Reed feud“I have a nice opportunity to start the year with a win, and try to build off of that.” The 23-year-old Bradbury is living a dream, having secured his DP World Tour membership after winning the Joburg Open in November while playing on an invitation.The man from Wakefield was paired with McIlroy on Sunday, and said: “You hear so many ‘Rory’s and then you just hear a random ‘Dan’ in the middle of it, you can’t help but smile. But it’s nice to know that there are people out there wishing me well.” Last week’s Abu Dhabi champion Victor Perez (66) was among a large group tied for fourth place at 11-under par.That included five LIV Golf players — Patrick Reed (69), Ian Poulter (69), Shaun Norris (67), Adri Arnaus (70) and Richard Bland (71).Reed wasn’t far away from controversy once again, as his ball became stuck in a tree on the 17th hole.However, footage showed the American identifying his ball with binoculars high in a tree supposedly different to the one it initially landed in.Reed was forced to take a penalty drop and ultimately carded a bogey, but had he not been able to find the ball, he would have had to go back to the 17th tee.Patrick Reed’s time in Dubai has been rather eventful. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)Source: Getty ImagesThe polarising figure admits he would have followed the rules if he couldn’t identify his ball.“I would have gone back to the tee if it wasn’t,” Reed said. “I got lucky that we were able to look through the binoculars and you have to make sure it’s your ball.“How I mark my golf balls, I always put an arrow on the end of the line. You could definitely see and identify the line with the arrow on the end. The rules official looked and he was there to reconfirm and check to make sure.”McIlroy started the day at 8-under par after an indifferent second round of 70, but four birdies in the first four holes lifted him to a share of the lead.He then made eight straight pars, before another stretch of four birdies in five holes. The finale was a disappointing bogey.McIlroy is guaranteed to retain his No1 position after Spain’s Jon Rahm came up short in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour.The world No3 needed a third place or better to have a chance of dislodging the Northern Irishman.McIlroy commented: “I’ve sort of sat at home watching Jon Rahm tear it up for the last sort of six weeks, and I felt like coming here, no matter what happened last night in San Diego, I want to try to come and play like the best player in the world.” Organisers were forced into staging the fourth round on Monday after a deluge caused havoc at the start of the tournament.