Sunday, December 17, 2017
Golf

McIlroy takes lead at Doral

DORAL — Rory McIlroy came into the Cadillac Championship insisting that everything about his game is solid and that his ability to contend rested solely on his mental game.

His mind must be right, because he played a mistake-free third round at Doral on Saturday.

McIlroy made four birdies and no bogeys on the Blue Monster, his 4-under 68 getting him to 12-under 204, three shots ahead of second-round leader Adam Scott (73) and defending champion Dustin Johnson (71) in the first World Golf Championships event of the season.

"I just played a really solid round of golf," McIlroy said.

If he wins today, McIlroy will go over $30 million in career PGA Tour earnings, and he could get handed the trophy by the course owner himself. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would attend today's final round, though it was unclear how visible he would be or how much of the day he would spend at Doral. Trump presented the trophy to Johnson after his win last year.

"I think it's Rory's to lose, really," said Danny Willett, who shot 72 and was five shots off the pace with Phil Mickelson (70) and Bubba Watson (71). "We're going to have to go out there and play clever and play aggressive when we can, and hopefully we can knock a few birdies off and post a good number."

McIlroy made nine birdies and nine bogeys or worse in only two rounds last week at the PGA's Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, which is why his preparation for Doral could start two days early with a missed cut there.

At Doral, he hasn't been flawless, but he has been close enough. McIlroy's last bogey by the end of Round 3 had been on the second hole in his second round.

In the 34 holes after that, he had 11 birdies and 23 pars, fueling his climb atop the leaderboard. He took the lead with a birdie at the par-4 fifth, one of only eight made on that hole Saturday. And he escaped brushes with the sand on each of his last two holes.

"My first bogey-free round of the year," McIlroy said. "To do it in a round like this is very pleasing."

Johnson rallied from five shots back in the final round to win last year.

"Anything's possible," Johnson said. "With this golf course, there's trouble on just about every hole, so I just need to go out and keep playing like I'm playing. I feel like I'm playing really well. (Saturday) I missed a couple short putts and didn't really hole any putts and still shot 1 under on a tough day. So I'm pleased with that."

World No. 1 Jordan Spieth struggled again, his 73 leaving him at 2 under.

Spieth played with Justin Thomas, who followed up 66 on Friday with 78. "A rough day for us both," Thomas said.

LPGA: Second-round co-leader Ha Na Jang shot 4-under 68 to grab a one-stroke lead by herself at 12-under 204 heading into the final round of the HSBC Champions in Singapore. Pornanong Phatlum knocked in six birdies in her 68 to end the third round at 11 under. Amy Yang (68) and second-round co-leader Mirim Lee (70) were 10 under. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (71) was 3 over.

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