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.

Jon Rahm was the star of the show on Friday at the CJ Cup, shooting a nine-under 62 to jump all the way up into a share for first place at 11 under with Kurt Kitayama.

Rahm's 62 came after an opening 69, raising his birdie count from six to 10, while cutting his bogeys from four to one as he figured out the Congaree Golf Club course.

Kitayama has been a much steadier presence this week, posting rounds of 66 and 65, with his second round highlighted by an impressive eagle on the par-five 12th hole.

Those two players lead the pack by one stroke, with Australia's Cam Davis and America's Aaron Wise tied for third at 10 under with back-to-back 66s.

Rory McIlroy is alone in fifth at nine under after following a front-nine score of 37 with an impressive 30 on the back-nine, and he is two strokes clear of a logjam tied for sixth at seven under.

The group includes young phenom Tom Kim, as well as former major champion Shane Lowry and England's Tyrrell Hatton, while Masters champion Danny Willett is a further shot back at six under.

Presidents Cup representatives Max Homa and Im Sung-jae enter the weekend six strokes off the pace at five under, with former world number one Jason Day at four under and current world number one Scottie Scheffler at three under.

Being an invitational event with no cut, Collin Morikawa (three under), Rickie Fowler (two under), Justin Thomas (one under) and Hideki Matsuyama (even par) will all get to stick around and play two more rounds.

The PGA Tour has filed a federal civil lawsuit against LIV Golf's financial backers, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and governor Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, per filings in Manhattan.

The complaint, filed under seal in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, is the latest move in the bitter war between golf's leading organisation and its breakaway opponent.

It follows the PGA Tour filing a counter-suit against LIV Golf last month, levelling accusations of interference in player contracts.

More than 30 players have been suspended from competing on the tour since their defection, while US players have been excluded from Ryder Cup consideration.

A number of players previously filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, though several – including six-time major champion Phil Mickelson – have been asked to be removed from that action.

Al-Rumayyan is also the chairman of Premier League outfit Newcastle United and heads up Saudi-owned petroleum company Saudi Aramco.

Defending CJ Cup champion Rory McIlroy started strong to be one shot behind joint leaders Gary Woodland and Trey Mullinax after the opening day at Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina.

The Northern Irishman is tied with six players at five-under after carding opening rounds of 66, including recent Shriners Children's Open winner Tom Kim.

McIlroy pieced together birdies on the fourth, fifth and sixth holes, but his round leveled out, finishing bogey-free.

Woodland was one of the pre-tournament favourites and he impressed early, with three straight birdies to open his round.

The American dropped three bogeys to slow his progress, but sunk a 21-foot birdie putt on the par-four 18th to finish his round with nine birdies and a share of the lead.

Co-leader Mullinax birdied four of his first six holes and six of his first 11, highlighted by a 23-foot birdie putt on the 11th.

Kim, who is only 20-years-old, stormed up the leaderboard late with three birdies in his final six holes, including rolling in a 28-foot birdie on the 16th although he slipped from the lead with a bogey on the 18th.

McIlroy and Kim are joined by Cam Davis, Kurt Kitayama, Aaron Wise and Wyndham Clark in carding opening day rounds of five-under-par.

Norwegian Viktor Hovland and American Tyrrell Hatton headline the following six-member group at four-under.

Two-time PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas is back at three-under, while former world number one pair Jon Rahm and Jason Day are at two-under. Scottie Scheffler finished with an even round.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth had a poor round that included a double bogey on the sixth and four bogeys to be four-over-par.

Rory McIlroy has hit back at Phil Mickelson by claiming the American's verdict that the PGA Tour is "trending downwards" is illogical.

Northern Irishman McIlroy has been one of the most prominent opponents of the LIV Golf breakaway tour, which made Mickelson an early flagship signing.

Mickelson said in Jeddah last week: "I firmly believe that I'm on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf.

"I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards. And I love the side that I'm on."

McIlroy has the likes of Tiger Woods in his corner, staying true to the tour that has for many years provided their livelihood.

"I think the people that have decided to stay here and play these tournaments, they or we haven't done anything differently than what we've always done. We're sticking to the system that has traditionally been there," McIlroy said.

"The guys that have gone over to LIV are the ones that have made the disruption they're the ones you have put the golf world in flux right now.

"For them to be talking the way they are, it's bold and there's a ton of propaganda being used. But I certainly don't see the PGA Tour trending downwards.

"Ninety-five per cent of the talent is here. You've people like Tom Kim coming through and that's the future of our game.

"I don't agree with what Phil said last week. I understand why he said it, because of the position he is in, but I don't think anyone that takes a logical view of the game of golf can agree with what he said."

Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the other high-profile players who turned their back on the PGA Tour

McIlroy, competing this week at the CJ Cup in South Carolina, has a chance to go back to the top of the world rankings, if he has a stellar week and Scottie Scheffler struggles.

With no points currently available at LIV events, it has made the route back to number one perhaps less arduous than it might have been for McIlroy.

McIlroy said: "If I get back to number one this week, it's like my ninth time getting back.

"It's like a heavyweight boxer losing a world title, and it's the journey of getting it back. That's the journey I've been on over the last 12 months."

Across his previous eight stints at number one, McIlroy has spent 106 weeks atop the rankings.

He ardently wants top spot again but says the fact of being number one would still have him wanting more.

"I got to number one in the world [for the first time] after I won the Honda Classic in 2012, and it'd been a goal of mine for maybe six months up until that point," McIlroy said. "I ended up getting there after the Honda, but I remember waking up the next morning and being like, 'Is this it?'.

"You work towards the goal for so long but don't feel any different after having achieved it, so it's a matter of having to reframe your goals and re-framing what success looks like.

"I think that's one of the great things about this game. No matter what you've achieved or what success you've had, you always want to do something else. You've got to maybe work harder to stay there."

The PGA Tour has announced four more "elevated" events for the new season that will see increased prize money and fields guaranteed to feature the world's best players.

The Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship and Travelers Championship will now all have $20million (£17.8m) prize purses meaning there are now 17 elevated events throughout the course of the current season.

The other 13 elevated events are comprised of the four majors, the Players Championship, the three FedEx Cup Playoff events, the Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, the WGC Match Play and the Tournament of Champions.

The idea of elevated events was initially developed in August in collaboration with numerous high-ranking golfers after several high-profile PGA tour golfers left to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.

The invitational series offers lucrative signing bonuses that vastly outweigh potential PGA tour prize money winnings and has secured the services of current Open champion Cameron Smith as well as two-time major champion, Dustin Johnson.

But it is hoped these elevated events, which the PGA Tour's top stars are committed to playing, will dissuade more players from leaving in the future and ensure the best players play together more frequently.

The four newly announced elevated events are only for 2023; the expectation being that other events will be given elevated status in the coming seasons. 

There is also potential for events in Europe on the DP World Tour to be given elevated status as part of the "strategic alliance" with the PGA Tour. 

The Scottish Open, which is co-sanctioned by both tours, could well be one event given elevated status as part of this alliance in future seasons.

Adrian Otaegui claimed his fourth DP World Tour title after a six-shot victory at the Andalucia Masters on Sunday.

The Spaniard went into the final round at Real Club Valderrama with a six-stroke cushion – a lead he never looked like relinquishing as he finished on 19 under par, setting a new course record.

Joakim Lagergren posted a final-round 68 to finish second, while Australia's Lee Min Woo was three shots back in third. 

A two-over 73 saw Angel Hidalgo take fourth, with Rasmus Hojgaard in fifth on a score of six under for the week.

Otaegui, who hit four birdies and a single bogey in a closing round of 68, described it as the "perfect" week on his favourite course in Spain.

"I'm very, very proud. I feel so happy to have my first win in Spain, in front of these crowds, on my favourite golf course in Spain," he told Sky Sports.

"It's just unbelievable. I'm very, very happy with everything, the week went perfect.

"I'm very happy with the way I managed today because it was my first time with such a big shot difference.

"The plan was just to start strong, forget the shot difference I had and try to beat the others today.

"I played very well until the end. I tried to follow the plan and think I did well."

Brooks Koepka edged out Peter Uihlein in a play-off to clinch the final individual prize of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series on Sunday.

Two birdies on Koepka's front nine in Jeddah set him up well to push on for glory, but the American slipped up after the turn at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.

A birdie on the 10th was followed by three successive bogeys, and though Koepka recovered to birdie on the 15th and the last to finish at 12 under par, he had provided his rivals with an opportunity to catch up.

Overnight leader Uihlein was one of those to take advantage, with a clean back nine seeing the 33-year-old bounce back from carding two double bogeys earlier on in his round, with his final score of 70 enough to force a play-off with Smash GC team-mate Koepka.

While it was good news for Smash GC, who secured a six-shot win to boost their form ahead of the Team Championship in Miami later this month, there had to be a loser, and after three holes with no give, Uihlein found a bunker.

Having rescued himself from a similar situation on the previous play-off hole, this time Uihlein could only clip a shot into the water, handing four-time major winner Koepka the chance to putt for victory.

"The last two years – they haven't been fun," an emotional Koepka said.

"So it's been a long road, I'm super excited. My whole team, we got the band back together a couple of months ago, this is for them.

"I didn't know if my career was over, for a half-second. I wasn't sure when I was going to play. It's nice to come back and win."

Joaquin Niemann went round in 65 to finish one shot behind the leading pair, tied with Sergio Garcia.

Inaugural LIV Golf champion Dustin Johnson came in at 10 under, alongside Matthew Wolff, while Bernd Wiesberger joined Niemann in recording 65.

Keegan Bradley claimed his first win since 2018 as he edged out Rickie Fowler and Andrew Putnam at the Zozo Championship.

Bradley was left fighting back tears after rolling in the winning putt, which saw him end a wait that stretched back to the BMW Championship over four years ago.

The 2011 US PGA champion prevailed thanks to a two-under 68, overcoming a wobble in which he carded two bogeys in three holes between the 14th and 16th.

It took him to 15 under par and proved enough to beat overnight leader Fowler, who could only manage a level par 70.

Fowler has not won on the PGA Tour since 2019. Putnam, whose last win came a month before Bradley's in August 2018, also finished one stroke back after a 68.

Emiliano Grillo's 64 was the second-best score of the day behind Lucas Herbert's 63 and took him to 13 under and outright fourth.

Viktor Hovland, Hayden Buckley and Sahith Theegala finished in a three-way tie for fifth.

Peter Uihlein seized a one-stroke lead to carry into the final round of LIV Golf Jeddah after a seven-under-par 63 in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

The American leapfrogged compatriot Brooks Koepka at the top of the leaderboard after an eagle and birdie on his final two holes took him to 12 under.

 

The only blot on his copybook at the Royal Greens Golf Club was a double bogey at the par-four 13th.

Koepka, who led after the first day of competition on Friday, carded a three-under round of 67 to stay in touch.

Two shots further back are South Africa's Charl Schwartzel and Sergio Garcia, with the Spaniard posting a bogey-free 64.

The inaugural individual LIV Golf champion Dustin Johnson stood five shots off the lead after a round of 65.

It was a disappointing day for Henrik Stenson, meanwhile, with the Swede sitting in last place after going round in 75, five over and for the tournament.

Rickie Fowler heads into the final round of the Zozo Championship with a one-stroke lead as he seeks to end his long wait for a 10th professional title.

Fowler has not tasted victory since his win at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix in 2019.

But he is tantalisingly close to experiencing the winning feeling once more after carding a four-under 66 in Chiba.

That took him to 14 under, with Keegan Bradley his closest challenger at 13 under and Andrew Putnam one stroke further back.

Viktor Hovland carded a 64 to move to 11 under, his six-under effort matched by Maverick McNealy, Cameron Champ and Hayden Buckley, who are all 10 under.

Sahith Theegala enjoyed the best round of the day, producing a 63 to move into contention at nine under.

"It’s been a while since I’ve been in this situation,” said Fowler.

"There hasn’t been much the last few years. Obviously remember being in the situations before. It’ll be tough tomorrow but also fun, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to have to play well and continue doing what I’ve been doing the last three days.

"There’s plenty of guys within a few shots, I’m out front, in control, but that can change if I don’t execute like I have been."

Brooks Koepka holds a two-stroke lead of LIV Golf Jeddah after finishing the opening round eight under par in Saudi Arabia.

The four-time major champion made eight birdies in his round of 62 and did not go over par on any hole to head into the weekend ahead of second-placed Charl Schwartzel, while Patrick Reed is tied for third with Hideto Tanihara and Peter Uihlein at three shots off the lead.

The inaugural individual LIV Golf champion Dustin Johnson is T16 on two under par, alongside Open champion and world number two Cameron Smith.

Johnson, who has collected 121 points across the season, struck five birdies, but a double-bogey on the par-three eighth set him back.

Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood fared slightly better at three under, the latter not carding any bogies in his round.

LIV Golf Bangkok winner Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra struggled to back up his performance in Thailand and is T28 at one under par, seven shots back from Koepka. Bryson DeChambeau, meanwhile, only managed a par 70.

After withdrawing from LIV Golf Bangkok with injury, Branden Grace carded a one-over-par round on his return to action.

Rickie Fowler is hoping to put on a show over the weekend at the Zozo Championship after moving into a share of the lead.

The American shot a blemish-free 63 at the Narashino Country Club on Friday to sit level with Andrew Putnam on 10 under. Putnam went one better than Fowler with a 62.

Keegan Bradley, one stroke back, provides the closest competition to the leading pair while first-round leader Brendan Steele's 73 saw him fall seven shots off the pace.

Fowler, who missed the cut at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last time out, is having a ball in Japan and looking forward to wowing the crowd in pursuit of a sixth PGA Tour title.

"I definitely enjoy myself over here and the people are awesome. It is really cool to play in front of the Japanese fans," he said.

"I'm hoping we can give them more good golf over the weekend.

"I'm very happy with where we're at. Obviously didn't have the week we wanted last week, drove it poorly, but with some of the changes we've made and to have the finish that we did at Napa [T6 at the Fortinet Championship] and kind of seeing a lot of good things, I'm definitely happy about it and excited to be here and off to a good start."

John Huh's 61 was the best round of the day and saw him climb to eight under, one stroke ahead of Japanese home hope Keita Nakajima.

Headline act and 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is not likely to figure in the battle for silverware but did move back to even par with a 69.

Phil Mickelson says he has on the "winning side" with LIV Golf and believes the PGA Tour is "trending downwards."

Mickelson defected from the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed breakaway series on a hugely lucrative contract in June.

Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the other high-profile players who turned their back on the PGA Tour to sign up for LIV Golf.

As he prepares to tee off in Jeddah on Friday, six-time major winner Mickelson is in no doubt he made the right decision.

He said: "Golf is very lucky to have the PIF [Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia] invest in the game… being influxed with billions of dollars.

"Now the US and the UK are not favourable to this, but everywhere else in the world, LIV Golf is loved. It is very negatively viewed currently [in the US and UK], but that has been changing and evolving already and in a few years LIV will be not only accepted but appreciated, because of the involvement and the influx of capital and what it is doing."

He added: "I've spoken with people who have had dealings that have not been positive with the [PGA] Tour and have had nothing but positive experiences with LIV.

"For a long, long time, my 30 years on the PGA Tour, pretty much all the best players played on the PGA Tour. That will never be the case again.

"I think going forward you have to pick the side you think is going to be successful. And I firmly believe that I'm on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf.

"I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards. And I love the side that I'm on."

Sergio Garcia admits it was "a hard decision" to eschew next year's Ryder Cup, stating he does not feel as if he would be "very welcome" amid the bitter PGA Tour-LIV Golf Invitational Series split.

The Spaniard, a six-time tournament winner, will not represent Team Europe next year at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Italy after failing to enter his name by last Friday's deadline.

While Team USA-eligible defectors are barred from inclusion following PGA Tour membership suspension, no call has been made on their opponents.

But even if he was to get a sponsor's invite, Garcia says he will not feature next year, acknowledging he is sad to feel ostracised amid the fallout of his defection to the Saudi-backed tour.

"It was a hard decision," he said. "But unfortunately, it doesn't feel like I'm very welcome there, so I don't want to be a bother to anyone.

"I've always said I love the Ryder Cup too much. I obviously would love to keep being a part of it. [But] when I see that so many people are against [me playing], if the team is better without me, I'd rather be out of it.

"There's obviously several guys who feel strongly that way. The [DP World] Tour is of that same thought. So I don't want to be something that might hurt the team.

"Obviously it's sad for me, how much I love the Ryder Cup and everything I've been able to do with Europe. That's the way they want it. I'm just helping out."

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