On his 30th birthday, Rory McIlroy superbly kept alive his chances of a third tournament victory as he muscled his way to within two shots of the lead heading to the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
McIlroy grabbed four birdies, including back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15, to move to nine-under par and close the gap to the leading American trio of Jason Dufner, Joel Dahmen and Max Homa who share the lead on 11-under par.
Homa and Dahmen posted one-under-par 70s, while Dufner shot 71 but on a day interrupted by suspensions due to storms in suburban Charlotte, North Carolina.
McIlroy’s 2018 victorious Ryder Cup team-mates Justin Rose (68) is just a shot back at eight-under with Paul Casey at seven under tied with West Waterford’s Seamus Power, who posted a moving day 68.
Power is well placed for a third straight PGA Tour top-10 and sitting only four shots back from the leaders he will be looking to lock up his 2020 card. If Power can manage a solo second finish, he would also qualify for the USPGA Championships in Bethpage in two week’s time.
McIlroy received a cake in the clubhouse and a “Happy Birthday” song from spectators at the first tee, the first of many that would serenade him throughout the round.
“It’s been awesome. I’m really grateful,” Rory said.
“I really, I 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”.
McIlroy won his first PGA title at Quail Hollow in 2010, recalling it came on May 2nd that year just two days before his 21st birthday.
But being underage and not being allowed to be served alcohol, he celebrated victory with apple juice instead of the traditional champers.
“At least I can have champagne in my flute,” McIlroy said of his 30th birthday plans.
Chasing his third Quail Hollow win, McIlroy is all too aware positioning is going into the final round.
“I’ve played some great golf on this back nine, and hopefully I can do it again on Sunday,” McIlroy said.
“I’m right there and I’m three closer to the lead than I was starting off today, so that’s a good thing. Just sort of hung around all day.
“I stayed really patient. I could have — coming back after that second delay, three-putting 12, I was a little bit angry at myself, sort of saying to myself on the 13th tee, “Why didn’t I hit balls instead of just going to the putting green?”
“I birdied 14 and 15 after that, played the last three holes well, which you need to do. Didn’t lose any shots there. I am right there going into tomorrow, so I’m excited for that.”
McIlroy is paired with Justin Rose in the third last group at 18:25 Irish time while Seamus Power will play with Paul Casey in the group before at 18:15.
Third Round Recap
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