Reigning champion McIlroy claims lead after pair of eagles at CJ Cup

By Sports Desk October 22, 2022

Rory McIlroy carded two eagles on the third day at the CJ Cup to catapult himself to the top of the leaderboard by one stroke at the Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina on Saturday.

McIlroy's four-under-par 67 moved him to 13 under after 54 holes, ahead of Lee Kyoung-hoon, who tied the day's lowest round with 66, Kurt Kitayama and halfway leader Jon Rahm who are all 12 under.

Taylor Moore and Aaron Wise are next best, both a further two shots back at 10 under ahead of the final day.

McIlroy's round included three bogeys and three birdies, but was highlighted by eagles on the par-five fourth hole and par-five 12th.

The Northern Irishman, who is the defending CJ Cup champion, approached from 227 yards with a long iron that landed within two feet of the flag on the fourth. McIlroy holed out up a slight hill for a 32-foot eagle on the 12th.

McIlroy's round also included a touch of fortune on the 15th when a heavy shot hit a sprinkler head to slow it up nicely on the green, leading to par.

Lee stormed into contention with six birdies across his round, managing a fine approach on the 17th to card one of only three birdies of the day on that hole.

Rahm also achieved that feat on the penultimate hole to help resurrect his hopes, after three bogeys in four holes in the middle of his round.

Kitayama, who had been second behind Rahm coming into the third day, had his worst round of the tournament, carding a one-under 70.

South Korean phenom Tom Kim carded a two-under 69 to be nine-under overall, while Tommy Fleetwood and Maverick McNealy both managed rounds of 66 to be eight under.

World number one Scottie Scheffler's miserable CJ Cup continued with a three-over 74, leaving him well off the pace, while Wyndham Clark provided a bright point with an ace on the par-three 10th.

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    In-form Jon Rahm surged into contention at the Farmers Insurance Open on Moving Day at Torrey Pines but Sam Ryder remains two shots clear ahead of the final round.

    The Spaniard, who started the day at four-under overall, carded an impressive six-under-par 66 on Friday to fly up the leaderboard to 10 under and be within two strokes of Ryder (12 under).

    Ryder had held a three-stroke advantage at the halfway point and maintained his lead despite an even round that included one birdie, where he made a great save after hitting the cart path, and one bogey as the event switched to the South Course for the final two days.

    World number three Rahm seemed to relish the conditions in an ominous sign ahead of the final round, with the second-best round of the day underlining his surge, that included a run of three straight birdies before an eagle on the ninth.

    Rahm moved into outright second with the eagle, with an excellent approach on to the green followed by an 11-foot putt. The 28-year-old claimed his first PGA Tour victory in 2017 at Torrey Pines.

    Tony Finau enjoyed the best round of the day, carding an eight-under-par 64 to move into outright third at eight-under overall.

    Finau, who was the only player to go bogey-free, had six birdies plus an eagle on the par-four first hole when he holed out from 138 yards on his approach.

    A group of four players are tied for fourth at seven-under overall, in Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Max Homa and Sahith Theegala.

  • McIlroy shakes off rust as Dubai Desert Classic gets set for Monday finish McIlroy shakes off rust as Dubai Desert Classic gets set for Monday finish

    Rory McIlroy put himself firmly in the mix at the Dubai Desert Classic after a flourish that disguised the "rusty" golf he feared would put him way down the leaderboard.

    The lucrative DP World Tour event was again hit by wet weather on Friday, after a six-hour delay on Thursday, and with McIlroy among many in the field yet to begin the second round, organisers decided it would be extended to finish on Monday rather than Sunday.

    McIlroy got his work for the day done in the morning at Emirates Golf Club, polishing off an opening round he left in a promising place overnight, having reached two under through 15 holes and given himself a short-range putt at the next that he elected to leave for Friday.

    The world number one made that putt, then holed out from 107 yards for eagle at the eighth hole, his 17th, and finished with another birdie to complete a six-under 66 for what was a share of the lead at the time.

    McIlroy summed up his performance on Thursday as "honestly not very good", so he was thankful to shoot such a low score.

    "I struggled out there most of yesterday," McIlroy said. "I thought did I well to be under par by the end of the day. I fought back after some very sloppy rusty golf over the first 14 holes.

    "And then today I came out and I don't really know if anything clicked because I don't think I hit enough shots to know. But it was definitely needed. I would have been happy with anything around 70 the way I played, and then to come in and shoot 66 is quite the bonus."

    American Patrick Reed, involved in a pre-tournament spat with McIlroy and alleged to have thrown a tee at his rival, joined the Northern Irishman on six under through the opening 18 holes thanks to a 15-foot eagle putt at the last.

    Reed, who missed the cut in Abu Dhabi last week, said: "I'm obviously really happy with the way I played. I felt like last week wasn't really a reflection of all the hard work I've been doing in the off-season.

    "To come out this week and feel like I was able to put everything together and to have my mind right on game planning and course management was definitely a plus. I feel like I had full control of the golf ball and made a couple of putts."

    Reed and McIlroy will play their second rounds on Saturday, but others began their second circuits before darkness brought an end to Friday's play.

    The first-round joint lead was snatched away from Reed and McIlroy by Swedish amateur Ludvig Aberg and Englishman Ian Poulter, who both carded seven-under 65s.

    Aberg then stumbled in the early stages of his second round, slipping back to five under through seven holes, but Poulter had a share of the overnight lead on eight under after making birdie at the third, the last hole he completed.

    Alongside Poulter was fellow English veteran Richard Bland, who followed a 67 by picking up three shots in the opening four holes of his second round.

    Spain's Angel Hidalgo held third place on seven under after he followed a 66 with an early birdie in round two, while South African Louis de Jager joined McIlroy and Reed in a share of fourth position.

  • Rivals McIlroy and Reed share the lead in Dubai at the close of delayed round one Rivals McIlroy and Reed share the lead in Dubai at the close of delayed round one

    Rory McIlroy was tied with rival Patrick Reed for the lead after the delayed conclusion to round one of the Dubai Desert Classic, though the Northern Irishman was not entirely satisfied with his performance.

    The build-up to the tournament has been dominated by a spat between world number one McIlroy and LIV Golf defector Reed.

    American Reed labelled McIlroy an "immature little child" for blanking him at the practice range and was also alleged to have thrown a tee at McIlroy.

    McIlroy said Reed's lawyer served him with court papers on Christmas Eve, although Reed has said he was not behind the subpoena, with the case concerned being one brought by American attorney Larry Klayman relating to divisions between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.

    A strong start from both players on a rain-delayed day one raised the possibility of an intriguing pairing over the weekend.

    And the chances of that happening were increased with McIlroy – who started on the back nine – closing birdie, eagle, birdie to finish his first round at six under par.

    Reed matched that score thanks to a 15-foot eagle at the last.

    Asked for his thoughts about how he played in round one, McIlroy said: "Honestly, not very good. I struggled out there most of yesterday. I thought I did well to be under par by the end of the day. I fought back after some very sloppy rusty golf over the first sort of 14 holes.

    "And then today I came out and I don't really know if anything clicked because I don't think I hit enough shots to know, but it was definitely needed.

    "I would have been happy with anything around 70 the way I played, and then to come in and shoot 66 is quite the bonus."

    The highlight for McIlroy was holing out from 114 yards out of the sand at the eighth (his 17th).

    "You know, I wouldn't say I'm the best fairway bunker player in the world. The desert is a little nicer, it's a little more packed down, so you get some better lies," he said.

    "All I was thinking about was catching it clean. My tendency out of those lies is to hit it a little bit heavy. As soon as I struck it – went down the grip a little bit just to make sure of the strike – I knew it came out really nicely and it was right down the pin.

    "Again, anything inside of 20 feet, I would have been happy with, so that was certainly a bonus."

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