ATLANTA (AFP) – World number one Rory McIlroy fired a three-under par 67 Saturday to match Billy Horschel for the lead entering the final round of the US PGA’s season-ending Tour Championship.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, this year’s British Open champion and PGA Championship winner, and American Horschel, who shot a third-round 69 for his 11th sub-70 round in a row, stood level on nine-under par after 54 holes at East Lake.
A showdown was set not only for the $1.4 million top prize for winning the tournament but also for the $10 million FedEx Cup season points playoff bonus.
McIlroy and Horschel are among the five points leaders who will capture the rich bonus prize simply by winning the tournament. Anyone in the field of 29 can take the bonus but most would need to win and have a major collapse by the co-leaders.
McIlroy, a combined 81-under par since he took the Claret Jug in July, fired Friday’s low round of 65 and battled through hot and humid Saturday conditions to grab a share of the lead.
“When you look at the score, 67 is a good score in the circumstances,” McIlroy said. “But it really wasn’t much to look at out there.
“I haven’t played my best golf out there this week. I’ve just been able to grind it out. If you’re not playing well, you still find a way to hole your putts and find a way to grind out scores like I’ve been doing this week.”
McIlroy sandwiched birdies at the first and third holes around a bogey at the second to begin the round.
He two-putted from 55 feet to birdie the par-5 fifth, but missed a 3-foot par putt at 10 to stumble back.
McIlroy’s biggest shot came at the par-5 15th when he put his second shot 27 feet from the hole and curled in the eagle putt to grab a share of the lead.
Horschel, McIlroy’s playing partner in the final duo, birdied the par-3 second and closed the front nine with back-to-back birdies but stumbled with bogeys at 10 and 13, opening the door for McIlroy.
“I was holding onto the reins pretty tight,” Horschel said. “I wasn’t putting the ball in the fairway. When you do that on the back nine it challenges you.