British Masters: Rory McIlroy just two off the lead after third round
By Keith Jackson at Close House
Last Updated: 01/10/17 5:02pm
Rory McIlroy fired his best round for three months as veteran Robert Karlsson ended an entertaining third round tied for the lead at the British Masters supported by Sky Sports.
McIlroy found his form in cold and damp conditions at Close House and delighted the vast galleries with a flawless 64 which lifted him to within two of the lead, while Ian Poulter recovered from a scrappy start to claim a share of second as Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton faltered.
Poulter's battling 68 left him just one off the pace alongside Paul Dunne, Graeme Storm, Richie Ramsay and overnight-leader Hatton, who made his third bogey of an erratic day at the last to return a disappointing one-over 71.
Karlsson, the only confirmed assistant captain to Thomas Bjorn for next year's Ryder Cup, is the surprise outright leader after a composed three-under 67, the highlight being a brilliant eagle-two at the driveable par-four ninth just moments after he bogeyed the eighth.
The 48-year-old birdied the 11th and 17th to claim a share of the lead, but he found himself as the overnight leader when Hatton's frustrating round ended with a four at the last.
Karlsson's fellow Swede David Lingmerth made the first significant move of the day and gave himself a legitimate shot at a 59 when he reeled off six birdies in a remarkable seven-hole burst from the fourth, and he picked up another shot at 13 to move to nine under.
But Lingmerth then dropped his first shot of the round at the next, although he hit back with further birdies at 16 and 17 as he set the early clubhouse target at 10 under - lifting him 46 places up the leaderboard.
Lingmerth, who won The Memorial on the PGA Tour in 2015, soon had company in the form of McIlroy, whose serene 64 was his best score since the final round of the Travelers Championship back in June.
After a birdie at the third, McIlroy chipped in for a two at the fifth and added another birdie at six before a nice up-and-down at the ninth capped an outward 31.
The world No 6 did miss some excellent chances to get closer to the lead over the back nine, although he did manage to birdie the 13th and 17th before a cast-iron par at the last ensured a late tee time on Sunday.
McIlroy's Ryder Cup team-mates Westwood and Poulter both struggled for consistency, with Poulter scrambling four pars and a birdie over the first four holes before finding water with his tee shot to the fifth after being distracted by mobile phone sounds in the crowd. and running up a double-bogey.
Tournament host Westwood got off to an ideal start as he birdied the second and third and added another at the ninth to get into a share of the lead, but his run of 48 holes without a dropped shot ended at the long 13th, where a poor tee shot set the tone for a scrappy bogey-six.
Westwood then three-putted the next green, and he missed a tiny putt for par at the last to slip back to where he started the day at nine under par.
George Coetzee is among the share of seventh after a mixed-bag of a 65 which included two eagles in the space of four holes at the sixth and ninth, while Shane Lowry made four birdies and kept a bogey off his card as he matched Friday's 66.
Westwood is a further shot adrift along with his Ryder Cup team-mates Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick, the 2015 British Masters champion, as both fired 66s, with last week's Portugal Masters winner Lucas Bjerregaard also at nine under after a 67.