PGA TOUR GOLF: Nightmare finish leaves Rory McIlroy needing something spectacular on final day

Rory McIlroy hits from bunker
Rory McIlroy hits from bunker

Jordan Spieth jumped to the front of the queue for Tour Championship glory and FedEx Cup big money after a dramatic turnaround on day three at East Lake.

The Masters and US Open champion has the chance to cap his unforgettable year on Sunday with another prized trophy, which with it would bring a bonus of 10 million US dollars.

And he put himself in the leading position by crafting and grafting his way to a two-under 68, his putter becoming hot at the end of the round, helping Spieth out of trouble and ahead of long-time leader Henrik Stenson.

The pair will duel for glory over the closing 18 holes, with Spieth beginning the final round on eight under par and Stenson one back.

Stenson began the day nine under, and at the turn he was on the same mark, but a shaky second nine holes played in two over par saw the 39-year-old Swede open the door for Spieth.

A terrific escape from trouble at the 16th hole, after a birdie at the previous hole, was the trigger moment for Spieth’s surge from second place, two shots back, to his one-shot overnight lead.

The 22-year-old American went horribly right off the tee at 16 and knew he was in trouble. He punched the ball out of immediate trouble to gain a sight of the flag, then with a pitch that was no more than adequate gave himself a 22-foot chance of par.

Spieth drained the putt into the heart of the hole, and an impressive two-putt for par from long range at 17, bogeyed by Stenson who found sand, set him up for a crack at the lead at the short last.

From 20 feet, Spieth nailed another pressure putt for birdie, with Stenson only able to make par.

What Rory McIlroy would have given for birdie, or even par, at the last.

Having played well to reach two under through 17 holes, and five under for the tournament, McIlroy butchered the par-three 18th, taking three shots to find the putting surface and then missing from close range for bogey.

A par round of 70 left the Northern Irishman three under, needing something spectacular over the closing 18 holes.

Rickie Fowler’s three-under 67, that lifted him to a tie for third with Paul Casey on four under, was the lowest anyone managed on Saturday.

A rain warning prompted tournament organisers to bring forward tee times by over two hours. The wet weather materialised and made conditions difficult, particularly around the rough, with Englishman Casey saying the course had become “monstrously long”.