Sport Golf

Monday 19 March 2018

Rory McIlroy: I'll chase down Sergio Garcia

Irishman continues good form and is just three behind Spaniard

Rory McIlroy celebrates making a birdie putt on the 18th hole
Rory McIlroy celebrates making a birdie putt on the 18th hole

A fortnight after trying to catch Rory McIlroy at Royal Liverpool, Sergio Garcia will attempt to hold off the Open champion in the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday.

Garcia chased McIlroy all the way at Hoylake before eventually finishing joint second, recording his 19th top-10 finish in his 64th major championship.

But the Spaniard has the opportunity to put that near-miss behind him by claiming his first World Golf Championship title at Firestone Country Club, despite suffering from a lengthy weather delay in Akron.

Tee times had been brought forward several hours due to forecast thunderstorms, but the final group had just finished the 15th hole when the threat of lightning forced players off the course.

Garcia held a five-shot lead over McIlroy and Marc Leishman at the time, but when play eventually resumed three hours and 15 minutes later, the 34-year-old struggled to recapture his rhythm and had to battle to par the final three holes.

In contrast, McIlroy missed a good birdie chance on the 16th but picked up shots on the 17th and 18th to card a third round of 66 and finish 11 under, three behind Garcia, who returned a 67.

Justin Rose of England congratulates Sergio Garcia of Spain
Justin Rose of England congratulates Sergio Garcia of Spain

"I came here this week talking about wanting to just keeping the momentum going and not really dwell on The Open too much and keep moving forward and I have done that really well this week," McIlroy said. "I'm obviously really excited to give myself another chance to win a tournament tomorrow.

"I drove it great at the Open as well and have been driving it great all year and that's why my results have been pretty good. Driving is the foundation of my game and if it's good it seems like everything feeds down from there and I've never driven the ball better than I am right now."

Leishman and world number one Adam Scott were two and three shots behind McIlroy respectively, the Australian pair having finished joint fifth together in the Open.

"It's great to see all the guys continue their good play," McIlroy added. "Sergio was chasing me down at Liverpool, I'm going to try and chase him down this week and we'll see what happens. It's a great leaderboard with a lot of good names and hopefully it will be a good battle tomorrow."

Justin Rose had been Garcia's closest challenger when he recovered from just his second bogey of the week on the eighth with birdies on the ninth and 10th, but then three-putted the 13th from 20 feet and did the same on the next, amazingly missing from no more than 12 inches.

The former US Open champion parred the final four holes either side of the delay to card a round of 70 and join Scott and Keegan Bradley on eight under, six off the pace.

Garcia had started the day with a three-shot lead after a sensational second round of 61, the Spaniard equalling the course record thanks to a back nine of just 27 shots which featured eight birdies, seven of them in succession from the 12th.

He was soon back into his stride when play resumed on Saturday, picking up shots on the second, fourth and sixth to reach the turn in 32.

The 11th was the only hole Garcia failed to birdie on the back nine on Friday, but the world number five made amends with a superb approach to two feet to move to 15 under par.

That was briefly good enough for a six-shot lead when McIlroy, who had also gone out in 32, missed from similar length on the 11th and followed that with a bogey on the 12th after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

However, Garcia then carded his first bogey since the 12th hole of his opening round when he pulled his approach left of the 14th green, the siren sounding to suspend play after the final group had completed the 15th.

Defending champion Tiger Woods had already struggled to a 72 to lie one over par for the tournament, further reducing his slim chances of qualifying for the FedEx Cup play-offs.

The 14-time major winner needs the equivalent of third-place finishes here and in next week's US PGA Championship to move from 215th in the standings into the top 125.

Woods carded one birdie, one bogey and a double bogey on the sixth, where television commentators apologised after the 38-year-old was heard to tell photographers to "Give me a little f****** space" as he walked out of the rough.

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