BMW Championship: Marc Leishman extends lead to five in Chicago
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 18/09/17 1:15am
Marc Leishman further extended his lead at the BMW Championship as a solid 68 gave his a five-stroke advantage to take into the final round at Conway Farms.
Leishman did not hit the heights of the opening two days as rounds of 62 and 64 earned him a three-shot lead at the halfway stage, but closest challengers Rickie Fowler and Jason Day were unable to make ground on the Australian on day three.
Fowler got off to the perfect start with an eagle at the opening hole, but he struggled for the remainder of the round and carded a disappointing 70 along with Day, who failed to make a birdie after the turn as firmer, faster conditions made scoring more difficult.
Justin Rose looks certain to boost his FedExCup rankings ahead of next week's season-finale at the Tour Championship as a flawless 66 lifted him to 12 under, but Rory McIlroy needs a miraculous final round to make the 30-man field for Atlanta after a 70 left him languishing outside the top 50 on two under par.
Leishman missed good birdie chances at each of the first two holes before getting a putt to drop from 15 feet at the third, but a poor drive led to just his third bogey of the tournament at the fourth.
The 33-year-old regained the stroke with a perfect 20-foot putt at the fifth, although he then missed from four feet for par at the seventh before a nice up-and-down at the par-five next got him back under the card for the day.
With Fowler and Day unable to apply significant pressure, Leishman reeled off a series of pars until he holed another good putt from mid-range at the 13th, and a deft up-and-down from the rear rough at the final hole yielded another birdie which saw him close on 19 under par.
Fowler sent a message of intent back to the Aussie pair on the first tee when he opted to unleash his driver at the 360-yard opener, and the aggressive tactic paid off as his ball finished just short of the greem, from where he nailed a brilliant putt for an eagle-two.
But that was a rare highlight for the popular American as he could not find a way to create any further good chances until the eighth, where he misjudged his four-footer for a four and then missed another decent look at birdie at the ninth.
Fowler's frustration increased when he bogeyed the 12th after finding a fairway bunker from the tee and, although he finally got a birdie putt to drop at the long 14th, another drive into sand at 16 cost him another shot as he slipped back to 14 under.
The Ryder Cup star shares second with Day, who found it tough to keep pace with his compatriot until he converted sublime pitches to the seventh and nine to reach the turn in 33.
But the former world No 1 paid the price for finding a greenside bunker at the 11th and, like Fowler, Day barely threatened any pins down the stretch as he closed with seven straight pars to lose ground on the resolute leader.
Rose will look to get off to a fast start to pressure Leishman on Sunday as he completed his second straight round without a bogey on his card, the Englishman making three birdies in four holes to cap an outward 32 before he picked up further shots at 15 and 18 to vault into outright fourth.
Jon Rahm revived his bid to hang onto a top-five place in the FedExCup standings heading to Atlanta as the exciting Spaniard reeled off four birdies in six holes from the 12th to return a 65 which elevated him to 11 under.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia enhanced his Tour Championship hopes with a third 68 in a row, and his current position of tied for 15th is projected to lift him to 27th in the standings, but Phil Mickelson needs to go low on Sunday despite joining Garcia on nine under with a 69.
Jordan Spieth bogeyed the final two holes to card a disappointing 70 and remain where he started the day on seven under, but he looks likely to retain his FedExCup lead with No 2 Justin Thomas (-5) and No 3 Dustin Johnson (-1) both below the Open champion on the leaderboard.
But McIlroy is almost certain to have an unscheduled week off next week as he put together a mixed-bag of a 70 which featured five birdies, including three in a row on the front nine, two bogeys and one double-bogey at the 14th after he carved his drive out-of-bounds.