LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Rory McIlroy played the kind of golf Saturday that typically would put him in control at a major championship. Staked to a one-shot lead in the PGA Championship, he made three birdies over his last four holes for a 4-under 67.
All that did was allow him to stay in front – barely.
More rain in the morning allowed for a deluge of birdies during a third round so wild that six players had a share of the lead at some point. McIlroy could hear it. The cheers of so many birdies resounding across the back nine made him realize it was time to get it in gear.
He rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 15. His approach from 172 yards landed with a splat next to the hole on the 16th for an easy birdie, and he took a one-shot lead over Bernd Wiesberger by getting up-and-down from a front bunker on the par-5 18th.
He was at 13-under 200.
McIlroy loves the view from the top – he has won all three of his majors with the lead.
“It’s not the biggest lead I’ve ever had,” said McIlroy, who led by eight, three and six shots after 54 holes in his previous major wins. “But I’m still in control of this golf tournament. It’s a great place to be going into tomorrow.”
Today is shaping up as a thriller, typical of the final major of the year.
McIlroy would have reason to feel like a driver in pole position who looks into his rearview mirror at the start of the race. Eight players were within four shots of the lead, a group that includes Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson.
Wiesberger closed with three straight birdies – the three putts were a combined 3 feet, 6 inches – for a 65. Playing in only his sixth major championship, the 28-year-old Austrian now gets to play in the final group at a major with the No. 1 player in the world.
“From now on, it’s just a bonus, really,” Wiesberger said.
Fowler, a runner-up in the last two majors and the first player since Tiger Woods to finish among the top five in all three of them, gets one last crack. He played bogey-free for a 67 and was two shots behind.
Fowler will be playing in the penultimate group with Mickelson, the five-time major champion who turned his game around with strong finish. Right when he looked to be fading from contention, Lefty turned it on with a long birdie putt on the 14th hole, two more birdies, and then he narrowly missed an eagle putt on the final hole. He had a 67 and was three shots behind.
“That birdie putt on 14 was really the one that got me going, because I needed to finish strong to get back in it,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson was at 10-under 203 with Jason Day, who played in the final group Saturday and had to settle for a 69.
Park leads LPGA Classic: Inbee Park made two long birdie putts on the back nine Saturday and finished with a 3-under 68 to remain a stroke ahead after the third round of the Meijer LPGA Classic.
The third-ranked South Korean player holed a 25-footer from the fringe on the par-3 14th, bogeyed the par-4 15th after missing a 3-foot par try and rebounded with a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th.
The 26-year-old Park won six times last season and took the Manulife Financial in June in Canada for her 10th LPGA Tour title. She had a 13-under 200 total at Blythefield Country Club.
South Korean rookie Mirim Lee was second after a 67. Norway’s Suzann Pettersen was another stroke back after a 69.