Recap of the day: Rory McIlroy had been talking a good game ever since his emotional second round at Royal Portrush last week and now came the pay-back many expected – a rollicking lap of the course which thrust him into the 54 hole lead. He carded an 8-under-par 62 which set a 12-under three round total of 198 which none could match. The nearest anyone got was Brooks Koepka, whose 64 left him one back on 11-under. Pre-round leader Matthew Fitzpatrick was passed, but he hung tough despite a rough back nine; he’s two back on 10-under after a 69. Behind him is the Aussie Marc Leishman, who carved a brilliant 63, Alex Noren, who smoothed a 66, and Jon Rahm, who chopped a 68, all three ending the day on 9-under.
Low round of the day: McIlroy’s 62
Revised outright betting: McIlroy 11/10, Koepka 9/4, Fitzpatrick 9/1, Rahm 10/1, Leishman 22/1, Noren 25/1
Sunday weather forecast
A repeat of yesterday and simply a nice day. Mostly sunny, temperatures in the low 80s, a mild breeze of about 6 mph and almost no chance of rain.
Leaders after at 54 holes
Rory McIlroy (62, 198) – Sensational stuff from the Northern Irishman. He lashed nine birdies and six of them were from inside eight feet. In SG: Tee to Green, a key stat here at TPC Southwind, he is heading in the right direction: -1.300, 1.956, 3.458. If he maintains that progress he’ll be tough to beat, but can he?
Brooks Koepka (64, 199) – Not far off McIlroy’s high standards. He missed nine greens in regulation in round two and hit every single one on the front nine Saturday, then missed just the one on the back nine. Ranks first in the field for Scrambling and ready to pounce for a first WGC title.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (69, 200) – Four birdies and just the one bogey through 11 holes, but then dropped four shots in the next four holes. Which makes his back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 all the more impressive. Missed eight greens through 36 holes and then seven in round three.
Marc Leishman (63, 201) – Four birdies and two bogeys was a smart enough front nine, but then was becalmed to the 14th. Whereupon he finished with three birdies and an eagle-3. Ranks T2 for SG: Approach the Green (5.432).
Alex Noren (66, 201) – Made a late birdie hat-trick from the 14th to leap into contention. If SG: Tee to Green retains importance through 72 holes he has it in him to be a contender (ranks sixth, see below).
Jon Rahm (68, 201) – Open in fine style with birdie at the second and eagle-3 at the third, but four bogeys around the turn halted his progress. Rebounded with two late birdies. Ranks sixth for SG: Putting (4.925).
Fate of the Favourites
Dustin Johnson (69, 207) – For the first time this week he completed a lap without scratching a double bogey on his card, but his profligacy remained with five birdies nearly entirely wiped out by four bogeys. In all he has made 18 birdies this week; it’s the errors that are hurting: 11 bogeys, two double bogeys.
Brooks Koepka – see above
Rory McIlroy – see above
Road to victory at TPC Southwind
2018 Dustin Johnson – R1: 13th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2017 Daniel Berger – R1: 48th, R2: 34th, R3: 9th
2016 Daniel Berger – R1: 10th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Fabian Gomez – R1: 8th, R2: 4th, R3: 1st
2014 Ben Crane – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
Notes: This has not been a course for final round comebacks. In fact the last 23 winners were all inside the top ten after 54 holes. Berger two years ago and Len Mattiace in in 2002 were furthest back at T9. Mattiace was seven swings back – the only one of those 23 men to have been more than four shots adrift of the lead.
Fate of the 54-hole leaders at – where did they finish?
2016 Daniel Berger 1st
2014 Ben Crane 1st
Notes: Of the 34 men to have held or shared the 54 hole lead 11 claimed the win.
Focus on – Rory McIlroy leading
He has held a solo third round lead on 13 occasions worldwide and claimed nine wins. On the PGA Tour he is 4-for-6 and in the WGC 1-for-1. Including ties for the lead at this stage he is 11-for-19. His most recent experience was when a third round 64 at the Canadian Open last month earned him a tie for the lead and a final round 61 saw him win by seven.
Focus on – Brooks Koepka chasing
For all his experience on the Challenge and European Tours it is only at PGA Tour and WGC level that Koepka has earned experience of heading into the final lap in second. In all he is 2-for-6, winning the 2015 Phoenix Open from three back and the 2017 U.S. Open from one adrift.
Focus on – SG: Tee to Green
Seven of the last eight winners here at TPC Southwind headed the rankings in this category. So how do the current top ten numbers for that add up?
1. McIlroy 10th: 4.114
2. Koepka 12th: 3.862
3. Fitzpatrick 14th: 3.398
4. Leishman 11th: 3.915
4. Noren 6th: 4.439
4. Rahm 22nd: 2.631
7. Olesen 1st: 5.279
7. Poulter 41st: -0.336
7. Horschel 13th: 3.675
Conclusion? The Scandinavian pair of Olesen and Noren might run McIlroy close if this trend continues.