Washington (AFP) – Rory McIlroy, chasing a title replay and a return to number one in the world rankings, shot two eagles in an under par 67 four on Saturday to clinch a one-shot lead in the US PGA Tour CJ Cup.
McIlroy took five shots on the three par-fives at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina, bagging eagles in the fourth and 12th.
Northern Ireland’s four-time top winner held a one-stroke lead over fifth-placed Spaniard Jon Rahm, South Korean Lee Kyoung-hoon and American Kurt Kitayama.
“The golf course definitely played harder,” McIlroy said of the layout of the Par-71 Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina.
His CJ Cup title last year came in Las Vegas, with this year marking the third in a row the event has been moved from South Korea because of travel restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Some of the hole locations were in dangerous spots and as the day dries out the course gets firmer and faster. Sometimes when you’re out of position the bogey is a decent score,” added McIlroy, who called his inner run “shaggy”.
Despite the wrong plays coming, McIlroy got the job done on the pair-fives.
McIlroy followed a birdie on the second par-five with a garbage dump bogey on the third.
He responded with his eagle in the fourth, where his second 227-yard fairway pitch hit two and a half feet off the pin.
He rolled in a 10-foot birdie on par 3 seventh and hit 12, where he rolled in a 32-foot putt from off the green after bombing his tee shot from 376 yards down the fairway.
“I think the eagle on the 12 was the most fun, right after how far I hit the tee,” he said, but added, “The six iron on four as well – went down absolutely perfect.”
McIlroy kept things rolling with a par save at 13, where he moved from a fairway-side waste bunker to a greenside bunker but shot to four feet.
A bogey on the par-3 14th, where he missed the green and missed his second shot on the placing surface, knocked McIlroy down in a lead tie with Kitayama, but he rolled a 2.4-meter birdie in the 16th to regain the lead. lonely.
He missed 17, but Kitayama trailed him too, and took the lead after a pair on 18.
Kitayama, who shared the night’s lead with Rahm, had three birdies and two bogeys in his one-under effort, while Lee moved up the leaderboard with a par 66 of five-under.
Rahm’s odd round
Rahm, who had rolled 125 feet of putts as he set a course record of 62 on Friday, faced frustration on the greens, his day including a pair of three-put bogeys.
Disappointed by two consecutive bogeys at 10 and 11, Rahm maintained his composure and was rewarded with three birdies the rest of the way, including an impressive effort on the 17th par 4, which yielded just three birdies on the day.
“It was a strange round,” said Rahm, who is coming off a DP World Tour win two weeks ago in Spain. “I played the first seven and a half holes very well.
“It was very difficult to leave a shot that you could be aggressive with. The first seven holes I was just defensive the whole time.”
Rahm said he was proud of his submission, especially a partial save at 16 and his birdie at 17.
“Hopefully I can start well tomorrow and have a good round,” he said.
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