The last major of the golfing year is routinely the most exciting. Just because the US PGA Championship lacks the history of the Open or the allure of Augusta National, its compelling nature should not be understated. So it has proven again on the banks of Lake Michigan.
For a Saturday afternoon spell, Jason Day was in cruise control in the midst of a run of six threes in a row. The golfing gods subsequently jabbed the Australian – he double-bogeyed the 15th before being afforded a horrendous greenside lie a hole later.
As this drama played out, Jordan Spieth propelled himself into the prominence he has become so accustomed to. The 22-year-old, seeking to become the first player to win the Masters, US Open and US PGA in the same calendar year, produced a stunning third round of 65. Spieth birdied each of the closing three Whistling Straits holes. A back nine of 30 ensures an aggregate of 50 under par in 2015 majors for Spieth.
By close of play Day led by two shots, at 15 under par, from Spieth on 13 under. Justin Rose was at 12 under, in a share of third place. The Englishman is more of a threat than he has been given credit for in these parts. Rose carded a third-round 68.
In reinforcing what he had always insisted would be a long-term approach to full rehabilitation of an ankle injury, Rory McIlroy has revealed he will skip the first event of the upcoming FedEx play-off series.
McIlroy made the admission after a third round of 68, his finest score of the tournament, which still leaves the Northern Irishman needing something in the realms of the astonishing to successfully defend the Wanamaker Trophy. History warns us not to completely rule that out.
McIlroy is competing in his first event since snapping an ankle ligament when playing football in early July. He has appeared in no obvious discomfort at all in Wisconsin but is still wearing protective tape on his left ankle.
As he is perfectly entitled to do, and doubtless after consideration with his medical team, McIlroy will join the FedEx race at the second stage, the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, rather than a week earlier in New Jersey.
“I didn’t want to play last week because I didn’t want to jeopardise playing this week,” McIlroy explained after moving to a six-under-par aggregate. “It could have made a difference but my health’s more important than the scores that I’m shooting out there.
“There’s no point in playing last week and then it flaring up. And then you completely throw this tournament into question. You have to play safe coming back from injury, you have to give yourself enough time.
“I’m going to take a couple of weeks off just to sort of reassess everything and I’ll start back in the play-offs at Boston and then play through the FedEx Cup.”
McIlroy had raced to four under par inside just five third-round holes, triggering thoughts of a charge towards the upper echelons of the leaderboard. He brilliantly eagled the par-five 5th.
Dropped shots at the 6th and 8th – where he was afforded a dreadful lie in a bunker – halted his charge. Birdies at the 10th, 13th, 16th and the hitherto troublesome 18th were offset in part by bogeys at the 12th and 15th. And yet, rightly, given the context of his swift comeback, McIlroy was in his most upbeat mood of the event. “There were really positive signs out there,” said the world No1.
“In the back of your mind, you still think you have a chance, because that’s what your competitive nature tells you. But if you’re looking at it realistically, I want to go out there tomorrow and shoot the best score that I’ve shot this week.
“I stood still a little on Thursday and Friday, but definitely improved today and you want to improve on that again tomorrow. If I do that, I think that, as a whole, the week would be somewhat of a success. It wouldn’t be quite what I wanted but I can take positives from it and move on.”
Martin Kaymer, who won here in 2010, is seeking to become the second player after Tiger Woods to win multiple US PGA titles at the same venue. The German signed for a brilliant third round of 65 to move to 11 under. Kaymer’s playing partner Branden Grace is even better placed at minus 12 after a 64.
“At a place you have done well before, you stand on the tee and are very comfortable,” Kaymer said.
“Myself and Branden carried each other, it was crazy the way we scored. It is great to have a guy next to you who hits great golf shots and makes putts. You can really feed off that.”
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