Rory McIlroy fires stunning 62 to claim one-shot lead over Brooks Koepka in Memphis
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 28/07/19 6:13pm
Rory McIlroy set up a final-round showdown with world No 1 Brooks Koepka after firing a superb 62 to claim the outright lead at the FedEx St Jude Invitational.
McIlroy continued his impressive response to his Open disappointment as he carded nine birdies and just one bogey to storm to 12 under par, with Koepka returning a 64 to book a place in Sunday's final pairing at TPC Southwind.
Overnight leader Matt Fitzpatrick remains firmly in contention as he produced a spirited finish following a series of mistakes on the back-nine, dropping four shots in as many holes before back-to-back birdies salvaged a 69 which got him back to within two of the leader.
But a hot and humid Saturday in Memphis belonged to McIlroy, whose all-round game matched the on-course temperature as he put himself on track to land his third victory of the year, and his first World Golf Championship title since 2015.
McIlroy birdied two of the first three holes before a perfect 25-foot putt for another at the seventh promoted a run of three-in-a-row which capped an outward-nine of 30.
The 30-year-old did well to escape with a bogey at the 12th after pushing his drive into the water hazard on the right, but he bounced back with four birdies over the last five holes and finished with an unlikely three at the 18th when he holed from close to 30 feet.
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"I had a lot of good numbers where I could go ahead and make a full committed swing, and I just dialled my distances in with the wedges," he said. "One of my goals was to hit it pin high and I hit it pin high most of the day.
"These greens are so pure if you get it on line and get it rolling properly, and I've holed a lot of putts this week."
Koepka was a model of consistency throughout the day and did not miss a green in regulation until the final hole, when his recovery stab from the rough trickled off the putting surface and pulled up in the fringe with the water lurking.
But a sublime pitch allowed him to save par with the minimum of fuss as he completed a seven-birdie card blighted only by a mistake at the 13th, where he three-putted from 50 feet before atoning with birdies at 14 and 15.
Koepka parred home to stay at 11 under and he would end the day one behind McIlroy and one ahead of Fitzpatrick, who got to 12 under with his fourth birdie of the round at the 11th before slicing his drive at the 12th into the drink.
The error would lead to a double-bogey six, and two more wayward tee shots cost him bogeys at two of the next three holes, but Fitzpatrick arrested the slide with a welcome birdie at the long 16th which he followed with an excellent mid-range putt on 17 to claw his way back to 10 under.
His spirited finish saw him claim outright third ahead of Jon Rahm (68), Alex Noren (66) and Marc Leishman, who was two under for the day with five holes remaining before the Australian enjoyed a spectacular run down the stretch.
After a birdie at the short 14th, Leishman holed from off the green for eagle at 16 and then peppered the pins at the last two holes, converting both from three feet to return a 63 which briefly earned him the clubhouse lead on nine under par.
Ian Poulter is one further adrift after he fired an adventurous 67 that included six birdies, one bogey and a double-bogey at the 12th, while Tommy Fleetwood birdied five of the first eight holes but parred the remaining 10 to stay at seven under.