European Tour Release – 27 May, 2018: Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari will share a four-shot lead heading into the final round of the BMW PGA Championship after a day of mixed fortunes at Wentworth Club.
McIlroy entered day three of the first Rolex Series event of the season with a three-shot lead but carded a one under par 71 in windy conditions to leave the door open for last season’s runner-up Molinari.
The Italian took full advantage, putting on a stunning display of iron play in a bogey-free 66 to get to 13 under and be right in the mix for a first victory at an event where he has finished in the top ten in five of the last six seasons.
“I just love playing here,” said Molinari. “Clearly it suits my eye and I just enjoy the atmosphere. The crowds are always great. It is a challenging course but I think if you hit good shots, you can make a few birdies here and there. I love it and hopefully it will be another good day tomorrow.
“It would be amazing to win a Rolex Series event. To win here with such tradition and it’s a course that is in the heart of Italian golfers as well, with Constantino (Rocca) and Matteo (Manassero) winning here in the past. I’ll see what I can do.”
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll need to play better than what I played today.
“I scrambled well for the most part. I was four under for the last 12 holes in this wind, which was pretty good, but it wasn’t the calibre of golf that I played yesterday. I need to start hitting more quality shots and put the ball in play and if I can do that then tomorrow is a big day.
“Francesco obviously played a good round today and a few guys played a good round. We have a little bit of a cushion compared to the rest and it’s not quite a two-horse race but I think if we both get off to good starts tomorrow, it could turn into that.”
Defending champion Alex Noren, South African Branden Grace – who also has a Rolex Series win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player – local favourite Ross Fisher and fellow Englishman Sam Horsfield were then at nine under.
McIlroy looked in big trouble when he found trees and sand with his first two shots at the third and despite a beautiful bunker shot, he could not get up and down.
The Northern Irishman was in an even worse spot on the sixth, finding trees on the right and failing to advance his second before having to play out and leaving himself a 104-yard up-and-down for bogey. He failed to make it and Sébastien Gros, who had birdied the fourth, was in the lead.
A second consecutive approach to inside three feet moved Molinari alongside McIlroy but the World Number Eight holed a 15-footer on the seventh before Gros edged ahead of him from ten feet on the ninth.
A Molinari up and down on the 12th moved him into double-figures and when Gros dropped a shot after going a long way right on the 11th, there was a three-way tie for the lead.
Molinari chipped in on the 14th to lead on his own and while McIlroy joined him by taking advantage of the 12th in textbook fashion, Molinari edged back ahead with a 25-foot putt on the 16th.
A smart up-and-down from a tricky spot on the 17th handed the leader a two-shot advantage and he had to get up and down from the drop zone on the last to save par after finding the water.
McIlroy then played nice up-and-down on the 17th and recovered from a ragged tee-shot on the last for a birdie-birdie finish and a share of the lead.
Noren turned in level par but a hat-trick of birdies from the 12th briefly had him within one of the lead. A bogey on the 15th and a double on the 16th saw those shots given back but a birdie-birdie finish put the Swede back in contention.
South African Grace was another man who played his first nine holes in 35 but an approach to four feet set up an eagle on the 12th and he holed a long putt for birdie on the 16th.
Wentworth is Fisher’s home club and he was flying at three under before surrendering a double-bogey on the 11th. He bounced straight back with a birdie and while he dropped a shot on the 16th, a birdie-eagle finish saw him set the target midway through the day.
Horsfield was playing in the final group alongside McIlroy and was four over for the day after ten holes but made five birdies on the way home – along with a bogey on the 13th – for a level par 72.
Frenchman Gros, Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Finn Mikko Korhonen and England’s Lee Westwood were at eight under, a shot clear of Danish pair Lucas Bjerregaard and Lasse Jensen, South African Darren Fichardt, Swede Marcus Kinhult and England’s Robert Rock.