Saturday's golf: McIlroy takes 1-shot lead into final round in Shanghai
Shanghai — On a day when eight players had a chance to take the lead at the HSBC Champions, Rory McIlroy found the best way to move forward was to not go backward.
He didn’t get the most out of his round Saturday at Sheshan International.
But he had the lead.
“I’m not going to complain,” McIlroy said after 5-under 67 with no bogeys on his card. “I’m in the lead going into tomorrow. Just need to rest up and try to get out there and play another good, solid round of golf.”
McIlroy hit a towering lob wedge that spun down the ridge to 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 closing hole to take a one-shot lead over Louis Oosthuizen on a day of big runs and unseemly collapses.
He had neither.
McIlroy only had to stress twice for par, and not after the third hole. He wound up at 15-under 201 as he goes for his first World Golf Championship since 2015, his fourth victory of the year and a chance to move a little closer to the No. 1 ranking.
Oosthuizen began the third round with five straight birdies and finished with two birdies over his last three holes for a 65.
“Five in a row and then just played decent,” Oosthuizen said. “Need to have another good one tomorrow.”
Li Haotong of China had a robust crowd going early with five birdies through six holes to take the lead, only to shoot 42 on the back nine for a 74 that knocked him out of contention.
Defending champion Xander Schauffele felt a little better in his fight to recover from the flu, and it showed early when he opened with three straight birdies and missed an 8-foot putt that would have been four in a row. He overcame a few mistakes around the turn and finished with three straight birdies for a 68 to finish two off the lead and get into the final group.
This is the only World Golf Championships event where no one has won back-to-back, and Schauffele is in the best shape to try to keep the WGCs in American hands for the eighth straight time.
“I wasn’t expecting to play this well at the beginning of the week, so I’m probably the happiest guy in the tournament,” he said.
Schauffele was tied at 13-under with Matt Fitzpatrick (70), who kept his bogey-free streak going with a 70-foot par putt on the fifth hole, only to miss a 4-foot par putt on the seventh hole, his first bogey since the first hole of the tournament.
He dropped two more shots on the back and didn’t make enough birdies – or as many birdies as everyone around him on another prime afternoon in Shanghai – to keep pace.
Eight players were within five shots of the lead, including Sungjae Im (70) and Match Play champion Kevin Kisner (67), both hopeful of being wild-card selections next week for the Presidents Cup.
But they are chasing McIlroy, no small task when he’s swinging like this.
“Played with Rory the last two rounds last week. He’s absolutely striping it,” Oosthuizen said. “I need to play really good golf tomorrow.”
Oosthuizen did his part early with five straight birdies, and he wasn’t alone in making a move up the leaderboard. When the final group reached the par-5 eighth hole, the leaderboard behind the green had Li at 13 under, three others at 12 under, and two more at 11 under. McIlroy was 2 under at that point and felt as though he wasn’t getting enough out of his round.
McIlroy missed a 5-foot birdie putt, but he answered with a bold 7-iron over the water to 4 feet for birdie on the ninth. More importantly, he didn’t give anything back.
“I guess at that point I felt like I needed to get more out of my round to get into the lead, but the back nine played tough,” he said. “I did what I needed to do. I birdied the two par 5s and didn’t drop any shots.”
He left that to everyone around him.
Li’s problems started behind the eighth green with a shot so delicate out of the Bermuda rough that he stubbed it only a few inches. He did well to escape with bogey. But on the 13th, Li went from a greenside bunker over the green and into a hazard, leading to triple bogey. He bogeyed his last two holes.
Adam Scott was two shots out of the lead until a double bogey on the par-5 eight, and bogeys on the ninth and 11th holes. He never recovered and hit into the water on the 18th, getting up-and-down to save par for a 75.
Paul Waring of England had eight birdies until going into the water on the 18th for a bogey and a 66, leaving him three shots back.
And then there was Phil Mickelson, who made only two pars over his final 13 holes – along with four birdies and seven bogeys – for a 75 that left him 14 shots behind. In a tie for 38th, Mickelson is likely to soon end his streak of nearly 26 years in the top 50, a record for the Official World Golf Ranking.
Harry Higgs rebounded from his first bogey of the week to take a two-stroke lead in the PGA Tour’s inaugural Bermuda Championship at Southhampton.
After dropping a stroke on the par-4 14th at hilly Port Royal, Higgs birdied the par-3 16th and par-4 18th on Saturday for his second straight 6-under 65. He had a 17-under 196 total.
Bryson DeChambeau’s teammate at SMU, Higgs is making his sixth start of his rookie season after winning on the Korn Ferry Tour and finishing fifth on the developmental tour’s regular-season points list to earn PGA Tour card.
Brendon Todd, tied for the second-round lead with Higgs and Scottie Scheffler, was second after a 67.
Bo Hoag and Brian Gay were 14 under. Hoag had his second 64 in three days, and Gay shot his second straight 65.
Scheffler was another stroke back, shooting his second 69 after an opening 62.
Brian Stuard (Jackson) shot his third straight 70 and is tied for 51st.
Defending champion Nelly Korda shot a 7-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead after third round of the LPGA Swinging Skirts.
Korda, who started the round one stroke back of overnight leader Mi Jung Hur, carded seven birdies at the par-72 Miramar Golf Country Club to finish at 18-under 198, three strokes ahead of Minjee Lee, who shot a 67.
“I think I’ve gone over 36 holes without a bogey, which is something that I always strive to do,” Korda said. “I don’t remember the last time I did that. I don’t think I’ve ever actually done that. But I’m just playing really solid golf, and there’s still so much golf to be played.”
Lee briefly moved into a tie with Korda after back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th. But Korda quickly regained the lead with a birdie of her own on the par-5 12th.
Caroline Masson shot 66 and was in third place, four strokes behind.
Top-ranked Jin Young Ko withdrew during the third round. She was 2 over after 10 holes and 5 over on the tournament. No immediate reason was given for her withdrawal.
Mi Jung Hur, who is looking for her third victory this season, shot a 71 and was in fourth place at 13 under.
Brooke Henderson, who shot a 64 on Friday, had five birdies against a pair of bogeys and a double bogey for a 71 that left her at 10 under.
Azahara Munoz was tied with Henderson in ninth place after a 64 that included seven birdies, an eagle and a bogey.
Retief Goosen shot a 6-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over fellow Hall of Famers Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer into the final round of the Invesco QQQ Championship at Thousand Oaks, California, the second event in the PGA Tour Champions’ Charles Schwab Cup playoffs.
Goosen birdied five of the last seven holes on the front nine at Sherwood Country Club, added a birdie on the par-5 11th, bogeyed the par-3 12th and rebounded with a birdie on the par-4 14th. The 50-year-old South African, the Senior Players Championship winner at Firestone in July for his first senior title, had a 10-under 134 total.
Langer, the 62-year-old German star who has won the season Schwab Cup title five times, matched Couples with a 65. Langer closed with a bogey, and Couples finished with a birdie.
The top 36 in the standings will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship next week in Phoenix. Goosen began the week seventh, Langer fourth and Couples 32nd.
Tom Gillis (Lake Orion) shot a 72 and is tied for eighth, five shots off the lead.