Wentworth fans acclaim golfing royalty as Rory McIlroy moves into BMW PGA mix
On the day when the sport paid its respect to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, golfing royalty in the shape of Rory McIlroy moved ominously into contention in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Helped by a lucky break as a drive that was heading perilously close to going out bounds at the 17th clattered into trees and eventually dropped back out on the fairway, the 2014 winner matched his best score at the Surrey venue with a seven-under-par 65.
Moving him to 11-under in an event reduced to 54 holes after Friday’s play had been scrapped following Her Majesty’s death at Balmoral on Thursday, McIlroy sits just one behind the joint-leaders, Dane Soren Kjeldsen and Norwegian Viktor Hovland, heading into the final circuit.
“I'm excited about tomorrow,” admitted McIlroy, who conceded there was a touch of irony about having a chance to win a three-round event after he’d poked pun at for LIV Golf, Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed breakaway circuit, for using that format.
“I haven't played one of these events, so it's going to be interesting to see how it feels,” he added. “There's so many guys up around the top of the leaderboard. So it will be a sprint to the finish, that's for sure.”
On a day when 2021 Scottish Open champion Min Woo Lee made two eagles in shooting a best-of-the-day 62, world No 608 Kjeldsen matched the feat in his equally-impressive 64.
The 47-year-old is bidding to emulate Anders Hansen, the 2007 champion, by winning the DP World Tour’s flagship event, while Hovland, who signed for a 68, is trying to become the first Norwegian to triumph on the iconic West Course.
Irishman Shane Lowry, who has the best scoring record out of anyone in the field, is in the mix again, sitting just two back along with 2018 winner Francesco Molinari, but in-form McIlroy is definitely the man to beat.
He won the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship in Atlanta in his last outing, securing the FedEx Cup in the process, and now has his sights on joining Henrik Stenson as the only players to do the double by topping the DP World Tour Order of Merit as well in the same season.
“I gave myself a couple of days off from East Lake but my attention quickly turned to not just this event but the rest of the season,” said McIlroy, who already leads the way in that title race from Will Zalatoris, US Open champion Matthew Fitzptrick and Hovland. “I want to finish the year off on a high. So a good day tomorrow would put me well on my way to doing that.”
Along with his fellow players, McIlroy wore a black ribbon as a mark of respect for The Queen. “She's been such a steadying figure,” he said in paying a personal tribute. “I saw a stat yesterday, she ascended to the throne two years (it was actually just one) before Ben Hogan won his first Open Championship. So it just shows you how long she's been around and things that she's seen."
American Talor Gooch, one of the LIV Golf rebels in the field and criticised earlier in the week by defending champion Billy Horschel for being here, sits just three shots behind the leaders after a 64, as does another LIV man, Spaniard Adrian Otaegui.
Grant Forrest finished birdie-birdie to sit as the leading Scot on eight-under and was joined in making the cut by David Law (seven-under), Scott Jamieson and Richie Ramsay (both six-under), Connor Syme (five-under) and Bob MacIntyre (four-under).
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