Flawless McIlroy grabs lead at Doral

MIAMI • Rory McIlroy again benefited from his new putting grip as he overhauled halfway leader Adam Scott to move three strokes clear of the chasing pack after the third round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Saturday.

Two shots behind Scott overnight, the world No. 3 racked up four birdies in a flawless display to card a four-under 68 on the difficult Blue Monster course at the Trump National Doral Resort.

McIlroy, seeking his first victory since the European Tour's season-ending DP World Tour Championship in late November, posted a 12-under total of 204.

"I just played a really solid round of golf," he told the Golf Channel after getting up and down from a greenside bunker to save par at the last hole.

"I didn't make any mistakes, no bogeys, which is what I've been looking to do. I feel like I've been making too many mistakes, so to eliminate the mistakes out there today and hole a lot of good putts and give myself a lot of (birdie) looks, I felt really good about it."

Australian Scott bogeyed two of the last six holes on the way to a 73 and a share of second at nine-under with long-hitting American Dustin Johnson (71).

World No. 1 Jordan Spieth was tied for 17th at two-under after a 73.

"Nothing really went my way," said Scott, who is trying to post victories in consecutive weeks after winning the Honda Classic.

"It was one of those days where you just don't quite hit it close enough and then the putts don't go in. Rory played the round everyone was looking for out there."

The Northern Irishman, using a deft short game, parred the last eight holes to maintain his grip on the tournament. He now has 11 birdies and no bogeys in his past 33 holes. And the switch of his putting stroke to a low left-hand grip has reaped instant results, accounting for 27 putts on Saturday, after 23 on Friday, and signalling his readiness for the Masters next month at Augusta National.

"I always say I want to go into Augusta with at least one win under my belt each year," McIlroy said. "The best way to prepare is to get yourself into contention. What shows up weaknesses in your game is being under pressure at critical moments and seeing how it holds up. And for three days, my game's held up very well."

REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2016, with the headline 'Flawless McIlroy grabs lead at Doral'. Print Edition | Subscribe