Rory McIlroy scrambles to within two shots of leaders in California

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy is two shots off the lead going into the final round of the Northern Trust Open in California and the Northern Irishman knew he had to rely on some hustle to stay in contention.

The world number three fired five birdies in a four-under-par 67 in his third round to join five other players on 10 under, two shots behind leader Bubba Watson.

After a second-round 70 was blighted by some indifferent putting, McIlroy regained his form with birdies at the second, sixth, 10th, 15th and 17th holes, with his bogey five at the par-four third his only blemish.

That was due to some impressive up-and-down play, which saw him scramble unlikely pars at holes seven, eight and 18.

He told “I didn’t play particularly well, I didn’t hit my first fairway until the eighth but my scrambling was good, my putting for pars was good, I stayed patient and let the opportunities present themselves.

“It added up to a great 67 and I am right in there going into the final day.

“There were a lot of up and downs today that didn’t look like they were going to be up and downs. You need to do that especially if you are a little scrappy with your long game as I was today.”

There are plenty of other players standing in the way of McIlroy and glory in his maiden outing at the tournament, not least two-times Masters champion Watson.

Watson also carded five birdies in his 67, let down by a solitary bogey at the eighth, as he forged a one-shot lead at 12 under.

Second-round leader Jason Kokrak, Chez Reavie and Dustin Johnson are in the chasing pack at 11 under, though Kokrak squandered a one-shot overnight lead with his round of 70.

McIlory is joined on 10 under by K.J Choi, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Kevin Chappell, who hit the best round of the day with 66.