• Honda Classic, Round Three

McIlroy takes control of Honda Classic

ESPN staff
March 2, 2012
Rory McIlroy was dialled in with his fairway wood © PA Photos


Rory McIlroy has put himself firmly in position to claim the world No. 1 spot after storming to the top of the leaderboard after three rounds of the Honda Classic - as Tiger Woods flattered to deceive one again.

A win at PGA National will enable McIlroy to wrestle top spot from Luke Donald and a round of 66 moved him two shots clear of Tom Gillis and Harris English at 11-under.

McIlroy made a blistering start, firing a birdie on the par-five third after finding the green in two - which was a notable effort given he missed a tiddler on the second. His putter was hot on the fourth as he drained a 20-footer for a birdie. A third birdie on the spin at five took him to the top of the leaderboard, but he frustratingly gave away shots at six and seven.

A birdie came his way at 11 after knocking in a putt from 50 feet, but his game got a little ragged in the middle of the back nine and he required a brilliant bunker shot to save par on 13 and a fine putt on 14 to do the same.

McIlroy entered the famed Bear Trip in indifferent form, but he threw down a marker with a stunning tee shot to eight feet. He rolled in the putt to surge to ten-under.

After coming through the Trap in one-under he put a seal on his round with a brilliant birdie putt from 15 feet on 18 to hand him a cushion heading into Sunday.

Gillis kept pace for much of the day, scrambling superbly at times, but he found sand off the tee on 15, came close to putting his bunker shot in the water and failed to convert for his par to hand McIlroy the lead outright.

English is within two of the lead following a 66, but it could have been better as he left a makeable birdie putt on 18 on the high side.

Charl Schwartzel surged into contention with a 67, but it could have been so much better than six-under for the tournament for the Masters champion. Four birdies in his opening six holes had him breathing down the necks of the leaders, but a double-bogey six on the 11th, having found water, stopped him in his tracks.

Justin Rose had a ragged day from tee to green, but was able to get round in 71 and he remains in the hunt at seven-under.

Graeme McDowell birdied 17 and 18 to secure a 69, which leaves him at four-under with 18 holes to play - one shot ahead of Davis Love III who posted a 71.

Tiger Woods looked far more comfortable with the putter in round three, taking just 28 strokes for the round. He looked set for an afternoon of toil when a five-foot par putt slid by on the second, but he regrouped to roll in a string of good putts - notably birdies on three, four and seven. The momentum was halted by a bogey on 13 and five straight pars saw him sign for a 69 to sit at two-under for the tournament.

The former world No. 1 is a shot ahead of the current world No. 3 as Lee Westwood went round in 70. Birdies on three and four threatened to spark a charge but he gave up three shots on the back nine - only to rescue things with a birdie on 18.


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