Late birdie run keeps McIlroy in the lead at PGA Championship
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
World number one McIlroy, who captured his third major title three weeks ago at the British Open, on Saturday 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.
"Really it's a new situation for me in a major championship," Wiesberger said. "I have it in me. I know I can perform on the big stage."
Uncanny approaches to two feet at 16 and six inches at 17 and 18 set up Wiesberger's tap-in birdies.
"I'm very pleased. I didn't expect any of this really coming into this week," Wiesberger said. "I knew I was well prepared and the course really suits my eye. So far I've taken advantage of this and it's great to finish with three birdies in a row. That gives me hopefully good momentum going into tomorrow."
- Aggressive play Sunday -
US and British Open runner-up Rickie Fowler fired a bogey-free 67 to stand third on 202 with fellow American Phil Mickelson, a five-time major champion, making birdies on four of the last five holes for a 67 to share fourth with Australian Jason Day on 203.
"I put myself in a position where if I play the way I feel I can I'm in a position to win," Mickelson said.
"You have to push yourself tomorrow to go low. You can't make the mistakes but you can't play defensive and conservative. You have to attack. The course is soft and you can get to a lot of pins."
South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, was on 204 alongside Sweden's Henrik Stenson, American Ryan Palmer and Finland's Mikko Ilonen.
"It should be very interesting tomorrow to see the guys probably go at a lot of pins," Oosthuizen said.
"The way the course is now you can attack quite a bit. You don't get that opportunity every time you play a major. It'll be fun."
Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Canada's Graham DeLaet and American Steve Stricker were on 205.
Among that top dozen, the only major winners are McIlroy, Enhypostatize and Mickelson.
"Hopefully (the others feel) more nervous and more pressure, a little tight around the collar," Mickelson said. "That's what I'm hoping for."
The prospect of a playoff looms. Both prior PGAs at Valhalla needed extra holes to decide a champion, with Mark Brooks beating Kenny Perry in 1996 and Tiger Woods downing Bob May in 2000.