Global stars chase McIlroy as PGA drama begins
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, seen on the 16th green during the third round of the 96th PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, on August 9, 2014 - by Warren Little
The last round of the year's final major tournament began under overcast skies with McIlroy awaiting a mid-afternoon start in the final group alongside Austrian surprise packet Bernd Wiesberger.
Wet conditions have made greens receptive and helped produce the lowest scoring average for a round in PGA Championship history on Saturday at 69.57 strokes.
That could spark a back-nine charge Sunday that has the feel of the equine homestretch battles at nearby Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby.
"I'm really confident right now," McIlroy said. "No matter who is on that leaderboard, I feel like I have a pretty good chance in beating them.
"One shot at a time, one hole at a time and just keep trying to do it like that regardless of who is chasing me."
McIlroy is on 13-under par total of 200 after 54 holes with Wiesberger, who never broke par in a major until this week, on 201 and American Rickie Fowler, a runner-up at this year's US and British Opens, another stroke adrift.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson and Australian Jason Day, three-times a major runner-up, were on 203 with South African Louis Oosthuizen, American Ryan Palmer, Finland's Mikko Ilonen and Swede Henrik Stenson, ranked four in the world, on 204.
McIlroy is on a hot streak of form and is on target for a prestigious hat-trick of victories having won the British Open triumph three weeks ago and a World Golf Championships victory last week.
If he wins the 25-year-old Northern Irishman would become the fourth youngest man to win his fourth major, trailing only Young Tom Morris, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
McIlroy, whose other major wins came at the 2012 PGA Championship and 2011 US Open, would be the first man to win two majors in a row or in the same year since Ireland's Padraig Harrington took the British Open and PGA in 2008.
And only three times since 1988 has a player won a major the week after a victory, Tiger Woods doing it in 2007 and Phil Mickelson pulling it off twice, in 2007 and then last year winning the Scottish Open before taking the British Open crown.
"It's mentally and physically tough whenever you're at this end of a leaderboard, especially a few weeks in a row," McIlroy said. "But I've got one more day to give it everything I have."
31 of the 56 Leaders after the third round at the PGA have won since stroke-play was adopted in 1958. McIlroy has won on three of the four occasions he has led going into the fourth round of a major, spectacularly squandering his lead the first time he found himself in such a position at the 2011 Masters but answering at every call since.
But McIlroy has typically enjoyed large leads on the field entering the last round in those major triumphs.
This time he must hold off a host of challengers on a 7,458-yard layout set up for birdie binges and eagle chances at drivable par-4s and par-5s reachable in two shots.