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McIlroy digs deep in face of Oosthuizen masterclass

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Rory McIlroy reacts after a putt on the 16th hole during the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship

Rory McIlroy reacts after a putt on the 16th hole during the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship

Rory McIlroy reacts after a putt on the 16th hole during the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN got so hot in yesterday's third round of the Deutsche Bank, Rory McIlroy was lucky his eyebrows weren't scorched off.

McIlroy had loped into the lead at TPC Boston with two super 65s, but Oosthuizen blazed past the 23-year-old with eight birdies in his first 10 holes.

Though he trailed his playing companion by six at that point, McIlroy fought back stoutly to get within three strokes at the finish as the South African 'settled' for an eight-under 63.

McIlroy, who had missed a couple of short par putts at seven and 15, birdied two of the final three holes for a fighting 67. This lifted him to 16-under and well within range of his third US victory of 2012 in today's final round.

A 68 by Tiger Woods placed him third on 13-under, with Dustin Johnson, who shot 65.

It had looked as if 2010 British Open champion Oosthuizen, trailing McIlroy by one overnight, would burn off the field as he landed seven straight birdies in that run to 10, his seven one-putts adding up to a whopping 120 feet.

"I was trying to get to 12-under and shoot 59 but the putts then just stopped going in," said Oosthuizen. Instead, he 'merely' matched Keegan Bradley's low round of the day.

Cellar

Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington needs to fight his way out of the cellar at TPC Boston today.

The Dubliner's place in the 70-man field for next week's third FedEx Cup play-off, The BMW at Crooked Stick, looked relatively safe (but not entirely so) despite dropping into a share of last at the Deutsche Bank with Graeme McDowell through 54 holes.

Both Irish golfers plummeted to six-over after third-round 75s. Unless Harrington makes a few birdies today, his FedEx Cup fate may rest in the hands of others.

Harrington's hopes of playing in next month's Ryder Cup expired last Monday, and Jose Maria Olazabal's decision not to award him a wild card looked wiser with each passing day in Boston.

The Irishman, who turned 41 last Friday, was once again blighted by inconsistency yesterday.

It's four years since he last won in Europe or America, and there was little sign over the first 54 holes here that drought might soon end. The Dubliner made just one birdie in round three, holing from 13 feet at 10.

McDowell is not playing with the élan or confidence which underpinned his US Open victory at Pebble Beach in 2010 and helped him become Europe's match-clincher at Celtic Manor.

The Ulsterman needs to recover his putting touch before next month's showdown with the US at Medinah. He took 34 putts yesterday, including his fourth three-putt of the week at nine. He made just one birdie, tapping in at 12.

Deutsche Bank Open,

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Irish Independent