USPGA Championship Golf: Rory McIlroy makes his move

Rory McIlroy charged to the top of the leaderboard and Tiger Woods tumbled right off it before play had to be suspended in the USPGA Championship third round at Kiawah Island yesterday.

Rory McIlroy charged to the top of the leaderboard and Tiger Woods tumbled right off it before play had to be suspended in the USPGA Championship third round at Kiawah Island yesterday.

McIlroy birdied five of the first eight holes – and saved a remarkable par after his ball stuck in a tree – but with a bogey on the ninth retreated to the clubhouse level with Vijay Singh and one ahead of Australian Adam Scott. That was because of an approaching thunderstorm along the South Carolina coast in late afternoon – a delay which threatened to prevent the round being completed before nightfall.

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Woods had resumed as joint leader with Singh, at 49 trying to become golf’s oldest-ever major champion, and Carl Pettersson, but things started going wrong for Tiger when he missed a three-foot birdie chance at the 390-yard first. He followed by hooking into the crowd off the next tee, a man being given a signed glove after being struck by the ball, and made further bogeys at the short fifth and 579-yard seventh, where he played three of his six shots off sand. He had dropped all the way into an eight-way tie for 11th five strokes behind.

Scott is only three weeks on, of course, from his nightmare finish to the Open at Royal Lytham, where he was cruising to his first major title, but then bogeyed the final four holes and lost by one to Ernie Els.

McIlroy had contacted the 31-year-old to console him, having had his own collapse at the Masters last year before hitting back to win the very next major. Scott had the chance to do the same after also going to the turn in 32.

McIlroy’s drama at the third had come two months after Lee Westwood lost a ball in branches when in contention for the US Open. After starting with back-to-back birdies the Northern Irishman was involved in a search for his ball and it needed a television replay to show that it had lodged eight feet off the ground.

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.

Earlier, England’s Justin Rose and David Lynn and Irishman Padraig Harrington all leapt out of the pack by going to the turn in 32.

Rose began only 47th after his desperately disappointing 79 on Friday 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.

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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, then double-bogeyed the tenth, but holed out from the sand at the short 17th. He just had time to par the last for a 69 and one under total before the sirens sounded around the course.

Lynn, with one win in 370 European Tour starts, was finally playing his first major in America and making the most of it. With a 68 he was alongside Harrington in joint 11th.

Europeans were everywhere on the leaderboard. Swede Pettersson was alone in fourth on four under and Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Peter Hanson shared seventh at two under, while Welshman Jamie Donaldson was another on one under and still had nine to play.

It was an hour after the suspension that the heavens finally opened and with some immediate flooding it was going to take a while to get the course playable again once the danger of lightning had passed. That in turn made it certain that the third round would spill into today.​