Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who has never successfully defended any of his 20 PGA Tour titles, is again in position to do it for the first time.
The 33-year-old McIlroy (pictured) shot 5-under-par 65 and is tied for the lead with Tony Finau heading to the final round of the 111th RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto.
McIlroy won this tournament in 2019, but it has not been played in the last two years because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“All aspects of my game were working today,” said McIlroy, whose last victory came earlier this season in the CJ Cup at the Summit. “I’ve been driving the ball very well the last couple days, but my wedge game was not so good yesterday, and cleaned that up and hit it better today. I would say 5-under was pretty reflective of the way I played today.
“I’ve played some really good golf this season while winning only once, so I just want to keep doing what I have been doing. You have to drive the ball in the fairway on this course and keep the ball below the hole because the greens are very tricky.
“I just want to get to a good number again and see where I am at the end of the day tomorrow.”
McIlroy made three birdies on each nine against a single bogey, but missed a six-foot birdie putt on the last hole that would have given him the outright lead, recording a 54-hole score of 11-under 199 that Finau matched with a 62 that was highlighted by a 37-foot eagle putt on the ninth hole.
“Putting has always been the weakest part of my game, but I’ve been working extra hard on it lately, especially in the last month and it’s great to seeing that hard work starting to pay off,” said Finau, who has won twice on the PGA Tour and tied for fourth recently in the Charles Schwab Challenge. “It’s been a little of trial and error.
“I got off to a great start today and it was really nice to see the ball going in the hole early and often. It’s great to see the dividends of all that hard work and I just want to keep it going tomorrow.”
Sixth-ranked Justin Thomas hit a brilliant approach shot from 235 yards to with 14 inches at No. 15 for a tap-in eagle en route to a bogey-free 63 and is two strokes back in a tie for third with ninth-ranked Sam Burns, who had a 65, Alex Smalley, who totaled 67, and Wyndham Clark, the leader after each of the first two days, who sank a nine-foot eagle putt at No. 11 in a 68.
Said Thomas, the PGA champion: “It’s really cool to be playing out there in this atmosphere. We haven’t been here the last two years and these fans were really ready for this. They’ve just been so loud and are really enjoying themselves.”
Austin Cook holed a nine-foot eagle putt on the ninth hole in another 68 and is four shots behind in a tie for seventh with Jim Knous, who finished at 69, while Sebastian Munoz of Colombia wound up at 65 and is five down in a big tie for ninth with Chris Kirk (66), Adam Long (67), Doug Ghim (68), Matt Fitzpatrick of England (70) and Keith Mitchell (70).
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler made four bogeys on the back nine in a 71 and slid to a tie for 29th, while fourth-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia made two birdies on each nine while shooting 68 and is tied for 41st.
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