Birthday boy McIlroy surges into contention

Rory McIlroy reacts to a putt attempt on the fifth green during the final round of the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club, on May 5, 2019.
Rory McIlroy reacts to a putt attempt on the fifth green during the final round of the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club, on May 5, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • Rory McIlroy celebrated his 30th birthday with a three-under 68 in the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship to move within two shots of the leaders at the weather-hit event in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A bogey by Max Homa (70) at the last left him tied at the top on 11-under 202 alongside fellow Americans Jason Dufner (71) and Joel Dahmen (70), while Pat Perez carded a 66 to move up to 203.

McIlroy, who could have had an even better Saturday had his putting been dialled in, put together four birdies against a bogey at Quail Hollow as fans offered birthday greetings on a stormy day.

"It's awesome. I'm really grateful," the Northern Irishman said of the greetings. "I really felt the love out there. Celebrate another decade of my life and I get to do it on one of my favourite golf courses in the world, it's pretty cool."

England's world No. 2 Justin Rose (68) is sixth on 205, while defending champion Jason Day shot a 74 to tumble to nine shots back.

McIlroy, who had an opening 66 before a poor finish on Friday for a 70 left him five behind, collected three birdies on the back nine after missing several early putting opportunities.

He appeared ready for another birdie at the 12th when the horn sounded for the second weather delay. When play resumed, the two-time Quail Hollow winner three-putted, slowing his momentum.

But he rebounded with birdies on the 14th and 15th holes as he showed glimpses of the form that gave him seven straight top-10 finishes to start the year, including victory at The Players Championship in March.

Homa, a former US collegiate champion seeking his first PGA Tour victory, held a three-stroke lead at one point. But bogeys at the par-four 11th and 18th spoiled what had been a bogey-free round.

"I've just been asking to have an opportunity like this to just see where my nerves are," the 28-year-old said of his chances in the final round yesterday.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2019, with the headline 'Birthday boy McIlroy surges into contention'. Print Edition | Subscribe