McIlroy closes in on world number one spot

Sat Mar 3, 2012 6:13pm EST
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By Simon Evans

(Reuters) - Rory McIlroy took a big step towards gaining the number one spot in the world rankings, grabbing a two stroke lead ahead of Sunday's final round of the Honda Classic.

The Northern Irishman shot a four-under par 66 on Saturday, recovering from successive bogeys on the sixth and seventh holes to produce three birdies on the back nine with some of his characteristically confident golf.

McIlroy, who can take over top spot from Englishman Luke Donald only with victory on Sunday, finished with a birdie on the 18th hole, coming out of sand a little too strongly and then draining a 12-foot putt from the opposite fringe.

The 22-year-old from Holywood stands at 11-under par for the tournament.

Americans Harris English and Tom Gillis were two strokes behind McIlroy while Englishman Justin Rose and Americans Keegan Bradley and Brian Harman were a further two strokes back, tied in fourth place.

Tiger Woods, looking to make up ground, could only manage a one-under 69, leaving him well back, nine shots off McIlroy.

The weather forecast for the PGA National on Sunday predicts possible thunderstorms and so the final round will begin early with threesomes going off the first and 10th tees.

(Reporting By Simon Evans; Editing by Gene Cherry)

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the third hole during third round play in the Honda Classic PGA golf tournament at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper