McIlroy 63 propels him to hopeful top-5 Zozo finish

Fatiha Betscher

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Fatiha Betscher

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A brilliant third round 63 propelled Rory McIlroy into the likelihood of a top-five finish in his opening 2019/20 season PGA Tour event at the rain-affected ZoZo Championship in Japan.

McIlroy had been playing catch-up in the first Tour tournament in Japan following an opening round of a one-over par 72 but the Northern Irishman found forward gears with a Saturday second round of five-under par 65.

He then emerged on Sunday to sensationally chip-in for an eagle ‘3’ at his last hole in a third round 63 to move to 10-under par on the rain-softened Accordia Golf Narashino course.

After a short luncheon break, McIlroy headed into round four and while he birdied the sixth and eighth holes to get to 12-under par, he dropped a shot at the par-11th hole and then produced five straight pars and had two holes to play when poor light halted play.

In fact, McIlroy will head to the 17th green to be staring at a 12-foot birdie putt when play resumes early Monday (Japan time) before he jets off to Shanghai and this coming week’s WGC – HSBC Championship.

“I played great this morning. Obviously nice to finish the way I did with a chip-in at the last for eagle, so I had momentum going into the final round,” he said.

“I played pretty well, but the setup of the golf course this afternoon was really tough. The pins were all tucked away, they were on little slopes, sort of found it hard to get close to the holes. You’re hitting it to 20 feet, it’s hard to hole putts on those greens because they’re so slopey and you’re having to give them two or three feet of break every time.

“I played well, solid. I’m going to try — I’m on 17 green, going to try to finish it off right tomorrow morning and have a 12-footer for birdie there and then try to make birdie or eagle at the last and finish as high up as possible.”

However, before McIlroy does head to China he may just hang around after his completes his own final round to congratulate now good friend, Tiger Woods who is more-than-likely to join the late Sam Snead in capturing 82 PGA Tour victories.

Woods had moved to 18-under par through 11 holes and three clear of Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama as he also seeks to win a second Tour victory this season following his very emotional Masters triumph in April.

And there will be no-one more impressed than McIlroy.

“It’s exciting for everyone involved with the game. Anytime Tiger’s up there, it’s better for all of us,” said McIlroy.

“It’s better for you guys at the PGA Tour, it’s better for us as players, it’s better for the sponsors. More eyeballs, more attention we get Tiger brings.

“It’s awesome, it’s great to see him play well. It’s great to see him healthy first and foremost. Yeah, as soon as I get done tomorrow, I’ll be a very interested viewer.”

And fellow Open Champion, Shane Lowry ended his championship with a rousing final round of 65 that included birdies on two of his closing three holes for an eight-under par tally and a current share of 12th place.

Like McIlroy, Lowry is headed to Shanghai where he will not only be seeking a third success this season but also seek to bridge the Race to Dubai gap between he and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.

Full scoring HERE

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