McIlroy storms up to join Singh on top

Sat, Aug 11, 2012, 01:00

Golf:Two months after Lee Westwood lost a ball in branches when in contention for the US Open, Rory McIlroy had tree trouble as he joined Vijay Singh at the top of the leaderboard before play was suspended due to the threat of lightning.

In McIlroy’s case, though, it did not signal the end of his chances. After starting his third round at Kiawah Island with back-to-back birdies the 23-year-old from Holywood was involved in a search for his ball at the 390-yard third.

It needed a television replay to show that it had lodged eight feet off the ground and whereas Westwood could not recover from his misfortune McIlroy, having reached up to retrieve, took a penalty drop, pitched on to seven feet and made it to save par.

That kept last year’s US Open champion at four under par, alongside Tiger Woods and Carl Pettersson and one behind Singh at that stage,

The 49-year-old Fijian, trying to become the oldest major champion in history, was part of a three-way tie at halfway in the season’s last Major, but set off again with a 14-foot birdie putt while playing partner Woods missed from 12.

It was still windy on the Ocean Course, but nothing like it had been on a Friday that saw more scores in the 90s than in the 60s, just Singh’s 69.

The scores reflected that as England’s Justin Rose and David Lynn and Pádraig Harrington all leapt out of the pack by going to the turn in 32.

Rose began only 47th after his desperately disappointing 79 yesterday and climbed all the way to seventh before undoing a lot of his great work over the closing stretch.

Rose bogeyed the 12th, missed the green at the short 17th and three-putted the last for a third bogey, a 70 and two over aggregate.

Harrington, trying with all his might to get back in the Ryder Cup reckoning after captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s words on Wednesday that he needed to do something extraordinary, also could not continue his fine start to the third round.

The Dubliner, winner in 2008, missed from under three feet at the 10th for a double bogey that took him down from sixth to 18th on level par.

Lynn, with one win in 370 European Tour starts, was finally playing his first Major in America and making the most of it.

When he sank a 12-foot putt at the long 16th for his sixth birdie of the day - there was also a bogey on the 10th on his card - he was in a tie for eighth on two under.

Europeans were everywhere on the leaderboard. Ian Poulter and Jamie Donaldson stood three under after three and two holes respectively, Graeme McDowell birdied the second and sixth to be alongside Lynn, and Dutchman Joost Luiten was only one further back.

McIlroy saved par from 10 feet after missing the fourth green, then struck a towering iron to three feet on the 188-yard next. In went the putt - his sixth in five holes - and he was alongside Singh, with Pettersson one back and Woods two behind with Poulter after he hooked into the crowd down the fourth and bogeyed.

A male spectator was hit, but not badly, and Woods gave him a signed glove as a memento, plus a handshake.

Donaldson had birdied the third, but followed it with a hat-trick of bogeys to be only level par.

With a fourth birdie coming at the long seventh McIlroy moved one ahead of Singh

and four clear of Woods, who slipped to seventh by missing the fifth green and failing to get up and down again.

McIlroy made it five birdies in eight holes with a seven-foot putt, but just before play was suspended because of an approaching thunderstorm he came up short of the ninth green and bogeyed to slip back to six under.

It put him only one ahead of Adam Scott, who had rolled in a 45-footer at the same hole, while Woods played three shots off sand in running up a six at the seventh and had tumbled all the way to joint 11th, five behind.

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