Golf: McIlroy trails leader Storm by three in SA Open

McIlroy in action at the South African Open on Jan 12, 2017, in Johannesburg.
McIlroy in action at the South African Open on Jan 12, 2017, in Johannesburg.PHOTO: AFP

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - World number two Rory McIlroy remained in hot pursuit of the South African Open title Saturday (Jan 14) after a third-round 67 left him second, three shots behind leader Graeme Storm.

Englishman Storm also carded a five-under 67 at Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg for a total of 199 with McIlroy from Northern Ireland on 202 in the European Tour event.

South African Jbe Kruger carded a 69 and Englishman Jordan Smith a 66 to share third place on 203.

The lowest score of the day was a course record-equalling 63 from Italian Edoardo Molinari, including nine birdies, which matched the second-round score of Storm.

Molinari is among six title challengers on 204, five shots off the pace set by Storm.

McIlroy, a four-time major winner who trails Australian Jason Day in the world rankings, had the large gallery which followed him buzzing when he eagled the eighth.

A long, straight drive at a parkland course littered with water hazards was followed by mid-iron second that dropped just past the pin, then trickled back into the hole.

The 27-year-old Irishman, who suffered back pain during the second round, raised his arms in delight against a backdrop of thunderous applause.

He turned in three-under 33 and after picking up three consecutive birdies from 11, slightly stained his scorecard by bogeying the final hole for the second straight round.

McIlroy is experimenting with clubs from three manufacturers after Nike, with whom he had a multimillion-dollar deal, pulled out of the equipment market.

While the stunning length of some drives by the Irishman had spectators gasping, he was also wayward occasionally, requiring some skilful recoveries from thick, tree-surrounded rough.

Storm saw his lead over McIlroy dwindle to one shot several times, but the golfer ranked 251 in the world, held his nerve to increase his second-round lead by one stroke.

He did not drop a shot while picking up three birdies on the outward journey and another two coming back.