LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Rory McIlroy celebrated his final birdie Saturday with a smile and a slight pump of his fist, knowing that 8-foot putt gave him the outright lead in the PGA Championship.
“It’s a great position to be in,” he said.
He is just not used to it being so crowded at the top.
McIlroy has won all three of his major titles with the lead going into the final round — by eight shots at the 2011 U.S. Open, three shots at the 2012 PGA Championship and six shots last month at the British Open.
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Now comes another major test for Boy Wonder — a Sunday shootout.
More rain in the morning at Valhalla allowed for a deluge of birdies in the lowest-scoring round in PGA Championship history. Six players had at least a share of the lead at some point. McIlroy could see it on the leaderboard. He could hear it on a golf course resounding with cheers from every corner.
The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland found an extra gear, closing with three birdies on the last four holes for a 4-under-par 67 and a one-shot lead over Bernd Wiesberger (65) of Austria.
McIlroy, ranked No. 1 in the world, was at 13 under.
Rickie Fowler (67), who tied for second in the previous two major tournaments, was in third place at 11 under. Phil Mickelson (67) and Jason Day (69) were tied for fourth at 10 under in the final major of the year.
Kevin Chappell (67), who owns a home in Kirkland, was tied for 13th place at 7 under. Ryan Moore (67) of Puyallup was tied for 23rd at 5 under.
The average score was 69.57, though it felt easier to former Masters champion Adam Scott (66), one of nine players with a 66 or better.
“Doesn’t get any easier,” said Scott, who was six off the lead. “Seems like 4 or 5 under is about even par today.”
McIlroy said, “Tomorrow, standing on the first tee is going to feel different than how it felt a month ago at Hoylake (at the British Open) because you don’t have that … it is going to be a shootout. You know the conditions are soft.
“Guys are going to make birdies. And you know that you’re going to have to make birdies, as well.”
McIlroy did his part late in the round, rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole, hitting a 9-iron from 172 yards that landed with a splat next to the cup for an easy birdie on No. 16 and getting up and down from a bunker on the final hole.
“It’s not the biggest lead I’ve ever had,” he said. “But I’m still in control of this golf tournament.”
Wiesberger closed with three straight birdies — and the three putts were a combined 3 feet, 6 inches.
“I’ve not been in contention in a major championship, so I don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” Wiesberger said. “I’m just trying to enjoy it, as I did today. … From now on, it’s just a bonus, really.”
• Inbee Park made two long birdie putts on the back nine and finished with a 3-under 68 to remain a stroke ahead after the third round of the Meijer LPGA Classic in Belmont, Mich.
Park was at 13-under 200. Mirim Lee (67) was in second place. Both are from South Korea.
Jimin Kang (71), a graduate of King’s High School in Shoreline, was tied for 28th at 1 under.
• Michelle Wie, the U.S. Women’s Open champion, has an injured right index finger that forced her to withdraw from the LPGA Championship next week and is expected to sideline her from three to five weeks.
• Kristen Gillman, a 16-year-old from Austin, Texas, and Canadian Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, also 16, advanced to Sunday’s 36-hole final in the U.S. Women’s Amateur in Glen Cove, N.Y.
|After Saturday’s third round at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville (par 71).|