Eagle Lifts Woodland to 3-shot lead in TOC

Gary Woodland had eighth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland right with him before soaring away with an eagle.

The 34-year-old Woodland sank a 65-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole and posted a 5-under-par 68 to take a three-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy into the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort https://golfatkapalua.com/plantation courseon the Hawaiian Island of Maui.

And he chuckled about it.

“I just saw somebody’s face in the background; they weren’t too happy that the ball went in (for the eagle), so it made me laugh,” said Woodland, who has three PGA Tour victories but has never won a stroke-play event in six events when he led after 54 holes. “I enjoyed that.

“ … It’s nice playing with Rory, because he plays really quick, we hit it similar distances so we can club off each other. And he’s a great guy so that definitely helps tomorrow. I’ve got to go out and play aggressive. I’m playing well enough where I don’t have to play conservative. I can attack and continue to trust what I’m doing and should be good.”

Woodland also sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole and recorded a 54-hole score of 17-under 202.

McIlroy, playing at Kapalua for the first time, posted a bogey-free 68, but managed only four straight pars at the finish after pulling even with Woodland by making four birdies on the last six holes of the front nine and adding a 7-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole.

“Another final group is great,” said McIlroy, who has said he will play sparingly on the European Tour and concentrate on the PGA Tour this season. “Especially coming off the back of not being able to play as well as I would have liked in final groups last year.

“So to get myself right back in contention and see if I’ve learned anything from last year and try to put that into practice is great. Every time you tee it up you learn something new, you learn something different, and you try to implement that into the next time you play. And I feel like I learned a lot from last year.

“I don’t enter tournaments just to show up. I enter them to try to come and win.”

Marc Leishman of Australia holed a nine-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to also shoot 68 and is four shots back in solo third, while Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State birdied four of the last seven holes in his own 68 and is one more back in a tie for fourth with fifth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis, who birdied three of the last four for a 70.

Fourth-ranked Justin Thomas, the 2017 TOC champion, finished at 70 and is seven down in a tie for sixth with first-round leader Kevin Tway, who had a 72, while third-ranked Dustin Johnson, the defending champion, and sixth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain both shot 69 and are eight back in a tie for eighth. Patton Kizzire is one more behind in solo 10th after a 71.

Seventh-ranked Francesco Molinari is tied for 21st after a 73 and top-ranked Brooks Koepka also wound up at 70 and is tied for 29th in the 33-player field of winners-only from the last year.

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