On a milestone birthday, Rory McIlroy was in position to become the first three-time winner of the Wells Fargo Championship.
McIlroy celebrated his 30th birthday Saturday at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., with a 3-under-par 68 to pull to within two shots of former Cal golfer Max Homa (70), Jason Dufner (71) and Joel Dahmen (70), who lead the tournament at 11-under 202.
“I’m right there going into (Sunday), so I’m excited for that,” McIlroy said after a round that was delayed twice by weather. “I’m three shots closer to the lead than I was starting off the day, so that’s a good thing.”
McIlroy has experience on his side entering Sunday, too.
He’s up against two players — Homa and Dahmen — who’ve never won on the PGA Tour, and Dufner, who is looking to break out of a lengthy slump and who appears to be just barely holding on after shooting 71 on Saturday. Pat Perez also was in contention, one shot ahead of McIlroy, but he’s coming off a torn calf muscle.
As he walked from hole to hole, McIlroy was repeatedly greeted by fans wishing him happy birthday.
“I felt the love,” he joked.
Homa, 28, who won the 2013 NCAA individual title with the Bears, will play in the final group at a PGA Tour event for the first time..
“All you can ask for is to have a chance,” Homa said. “I think I did that today. Obviously, we have a long 18 holes to go on a hard golf course, but I’m proud of the round. I like how I played, I like my chances and I like where I’m standing after three days.”
European Tour: China’s Kuang Yang, at 14 the youngest player to make the cut in a European Tour event, shot a 3-under 69 that featured five birdies in his first 10 holes to move into a tie for 44th place after the third round of the Volvo China Open in Shenzhen, China.
Kuang is 12 strokes behind the leader, France’s Benjamin Hebert, who shot 8-under 64 to move 17 under overall.
PGA Tour Champions: Scott McCarron took a three-stroke lead in the Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands, Texas, completing a 5-under 67 in the storm-delayed first round and adding a 65 in the second for a 12-under 132. Paul Goydos (68-67) and Scott Parel (67-68) were tied for second.
“Hopefully, going to have a nice day tomorrow,” Goydos said. “But I think if (McCarron) goes out and shoots 5- or 6-under par like he did today, kind of a moot point.”
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