American McGirt grabs two-shot lead at Riviera

Sat Feb 15, 2014 7:00pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Little known American William McGirt, seeking his first PGA Tour win, broke clear of a congested leaderboard to seize a two-shot lead in Saturday's third round of the Northern Trust Open.

Two strokes off the pace when the delayed second round was completed earlier in the day, the 34-year-old journeyman took advantage of several favorable pin positions with superb all-round golf to fire a six-under-par 65.

McGirt birdied five of his first six holes, then picked up three more shots in the first four holes after the turn on the way to a 12-under total of 201 in the PGA Tour event at a firm and fast-running Riviera Country Club.

"Played really solid, hit a lot of good iron shots and good putts," McGirt told reporters after mixing eight birdies with two bogeys on a day of hazy sunshine and occasional cloud cover. "Just one of those days you could see the line.

"On the putting green, my stroke felt fast and I've been working hard trying to slow it down. Nothing felt good warming up, the putter didn't feel good and the swing really didn't feel good.

"Maybe there's something to it," McGirt said with a broad grin. "I hit a lot of good shots and starting out, the hole looked like a washtub. All in all, it was pretty good all day."

George McNeill, a double winner on the U.S. circuit, carded a 66 after eagling the par-five first to finish at 10 under, level with fellow American Charlie Beljan (68).

Two more Americans, left-hander Brian Harman (68) and Monday qualifier Jason Allred (67), were a further stroke back in a tie for fourth.   Continued...

February 15, 2014; Pacific Palisades, CA, USA; William McGirt hits from the third hole tee during the third round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports