Jon Rahm tries to hunt down Patrick Cantlay in Atlanta

Spaniard two behind Tour Championship leader as Rory McIlroy struggles to a 74

Patrick Cantlay leads Jon Rahm by two strokes in Atlanta. Photograph: Cliff Hawkins/Getty

Patrick Cantlay leads Jon Rahm by two strokes in Atlanta. Photograph: Cliff Hawkins/Getty

 

Patrick Cantlay will start the final round of the Tour Championship in the same position as he began the first as he closes in on the $15 million (€13.6m) first prize in Atlanta.

Victory in the BMW Championship last week took Cantlay top of the FedEx Cup standings and meant he went into the first round two shots clear of his nearest rival under the controversial handicap system adopted in 2019.

And after rounds of 67, 66 and 67 at East Lake the world number four maintained that advantage over US Open champion Jon Rahm, who added a 68 on Saturday to rounds of 65 on the first two days.

Rory McIlroy however slipped down the leaderboard as he slumped to a four over par round of 74 which included six bogeys and a double. He’s tied for 17th heading into the final round.

Rahm began the day a shot behind Cantlay and drew level with a birdie on the third, before both men birdied the sixth and Cantlay regained the lead with another birdie on the next.

With Rahm dropping a shot on the eighth, Cantlay birdied the ninth and 10th to move four shots clear, only to promptly bogey the 11th.

Further dropped shots on the 14th and 16th allowed Rahm to close within a shot of the lead, but Cantlay holed from 25 feet for a birdie on the 18th to double his advantage.

“I thought it was big for momentum,” Cantlay said. “It was a nice putt to make, especially being out of position on that hole. And I’ll take that momentum into tomorrow.”

Asked if he would be thinking about the possible eight-figure payday on Sunday, Cantlay added: “The internal drive to win golf tournaments is really what drives me, and so the external factors are not as much of a factor for me.

“I’m going to feel similar to how I feel most any Sunday when I’m coming down the stretch for a golf tournament because my drive to win is strong inside me.

“And so the other stuff is just a consequence of that, and I don’t play the game to make money. I play the game because I want to win golf tournaments and I love doing that, and I’m in a great spot to do that tomorrow.”

Rahm was frustrated with his iron play and failing to take advantage of what he felt was a strong performance off the tee.

“It was one of those days where there was a lot of in-between numbers,” the world number one said. “I don’t think it happened once today, a perfect stock number, no doubt about it.

“There was a lot of three-quarters and finessing around, and certain holes I just played a little bit more conservative and didn’t give myself the best chances to make putts.

“But I hung in there, gave myself a couple chances down the stretch. Too bad I couldn’t make one of the putts, but still a good round. This golf course is not easy. So with what I had, I posted a good score and I’m in a good spot for tomorrow.”

Justin Thomas is five shots off the lead after a third round of 65.

Latest third round scores in the USPGA Tour TOUR Championship, East Lake (USA unless stated, Par 70):

20 under Patrick Cantlay

18 under Jon Rahm (Spa)

15 under Justin Thomas

13 under Kevin Na

10 under Abraham Ancer (Mex), Billy Horschel

9 under Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland (Nor)

8 under Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele

7 under Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa)

6 under Tony Finau, Cameron Smith (Aus), Sergio Garcia (Spa)

5 under Jason Kokrak

4 under Harris English, Sam Burns, Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Scottie Scheffler

3 under Patrick Reed

2 under Collin Morikawa, Sung Jae Im (Kor), Corey Conners (Can), Daniel Berger

Level par Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Stewart Cink, Erik van Rooyen (Rsa)

2 over Joaquin Niemann (Chi)

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