LOUISVILLE: Rory McIlroy birdied three of the last four holes on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to hold off a pack of challengers and escape with a one-stroke lead entering the final round of the PGA Championship.
World number one McIlroy, who captured his third major title three weeks ago at the British Open, fired a four-under par 67 for the second day in a row to stand on 13-under 200 after 54 holes at the year’s last major tournament.
“It wasn’t as easy as I expected it to be out there,” McIlroy said. “They tucked a few pins away and playing with the lead as well, you maybe can’t play with the freedom as if you’re chasing.
“But really happy with how I finished. To shoot another 67 without really having some of my best stuff for the round was really pleasing.”
With three birdies and two bogeys over the first 14 holes, McIlroy was in a fight for the lead before a sizzling late run.
McIlroy sank a 20-foot birdie putt at 15, hit his approach to two feet at 16 to set up another and made a clutch seven-foot birdie putt at the par-5 18th to keep the same margin he enjoyed when the day began.
“I noticed a few guys in front of me were sort of making a run on the back nine charge,” McIlroy said.
“I knew I needed to do something in the last few holes and to pull a few birdies out like that was really pleasing. Happy that I kept the lead going into tomorrow.”
Rain-soaked Valhalla offered up prime scoring conditions and six players led at some stage on a wild day that saw 11 rivals finish within five shots of McIlroy.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, whose only made cut in a major brought a share of 64th at last year’s British Open, birdied the last three holes to match the day’s low-round with a bogey-free 65 to finish on 201 and join McIlroy in Sunday’s final group.
Uncanny approaches to two feet at 16 and six inches at 17 and 18 set up Wiesberger’s tap-in birdies.