McIlroy leaving world rankings quest to the side in favour of CJ Cup title defence

Adam McKendry
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Rory McIlroy during the third round of the CJ Cup at Congaree Golf Club (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy says he will let the world rankings take care of themselves and he is just one round away from reclaiming his place as World No.1 as he takes a one-shot lead into the final round of the CJ Cup in South Carolina.

The Holywood man, who is also defending champion this week at Congaree, fired a four-under 67 consisting of two eagles, three birdies and three bogeys in his third round to set the pace at 13-under-par, one shot ahead of K.H. Lee, Kurt Kitayama and Jon Rahm.

McIlroy has to win the event and hope that current World No.1 Scottie Scheffler does not finish in second to return to the top of the world rankings, but with the latter all the way down in 47th at level-par it seems like the victory will get the job done.

However, despite being within touching distance of achieving one of his primary goals for the year, McIlroy is leaving those kinds of thoughts in the background as he tries to defend his title.

“The ranking will just take care of itself if I do what I want to do,” dismissed the 33-year-old.

“Ultimately, I just want to win this golf tournament. If I win the golf tournament, then everything will take care of itself.

“So for me, tomorrow I need to go out there, sort of set myself a score that I want to shoot, try to do that. Again, focusing on that, hope that that ends up with a couple of things, a trophy and getting back to the top of the world rankings.

“But all I can focus on is going out and shooting a good golf score and if I can do that, I guess that’s all I can ask of myself.”

McIlroy came within two feet of the rarest bird of all, an albatross, on the par-five fourth, but his first eagle of the day got him within one of the lead after a birdie at the par-five second was cancelled out by a bogey at the following hole.

A birdie at the par-three seventh was followed by another superb eagle at the par-five 12th as he holed out from 36-feet off the green, although bogeys at the 14th and 17th sandwiched a birdie at the par-four 16th for a 67.

It looked like that might not be enough for the lead, with Kitayama also at 13-under, but the American bogeyed the 17th to card a 70 to drop back to 12-under.

That has him alongside Lee, who signed for a five-under 66 to move into a share of second alongside Kitayama and Rahm, who also had a slightly underwhelming 70 in his third round.

It was a tougher Saturday for Shane Lowry and Seamus Power as both went the wrong direction on the leaderboard.

Lowry started strongly with three birdies in his first eight holes to make an early move, but his momentum stalled after that and three bogeys on his way in led to a level-par 71 that kept him at seven-under-par but dropped him outside the top-10 into a share of 14th.

It was an even tougher day for Power, who had just one birdie in his round and actually reached the turn in one-under, but four bogeys on his back nine led to a 74, dropping him back to three-under-par and a tie for 31st.

SCORING

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