Virginia Water - Northern Irish golf star Rory McIlroy admitted he struggled
in his third round at the PGA Championship but was proud he battled through to
share the lead with Francesco Molinari going into Sunday's climax.
The 29-year-old quadruple major champion said he had kept
patient and drew on his experience despite at times the windy conditions
exposing flaws in his game - he still came in one-under par to join last
year's runner-up Francesco Molinari on 13 under par.
They have a four shot cushion on a quartet which includes
last year's champion Alex Noren, who also had an adventure-filled round.
"It was a struggle out there today," said McIlroy,
who won the PGA title in 2014 but has also missed four cuts.
"But I am proud of myself as I stayed patient and
relied on my experience.
"It is pleasing to still be up there and tied for the
McIlroy began badly including a double bogey at the sixth
where during his event-filled journey to the green he managed to hit a female
spectator on the hand with one shot - her wincing in pan reflecting the
feelings of McIlroy's many followers in the gallery.
He steadied himself in the middle and kept himself on the
tail of Molinari although once again on the 18th a wild drive this time drew
blood from the head of another female spectator who was comforted by him and
then was swathed in bandages.
"It obviously affects you when you see blood,"
said McIlroy, who along with playing partner Sam Horsfield also hit the same
unfortunate marshal on the 17th.
"I said sorry and I hope they are ok. I don't know what
else I could do offering them a glove wouldn't have been much of a consolation.
"Are the crowds too close to play here? Well when
you're hitting the balls like I was today they are!" he added smiling.
McIlroy, who after a bright start to the season has seen his
form go flat since the Masters eluded him once again in April, said there was
enough quality behind to give him and Molinari food for thought.
"We have a cushion so it could be a two hose race if we
get off to good starts," he said.
"However, look what happened last year Alex came from
nowhere and blew them away."
Whilst McIlroy's round was anything but a thing of beauty
Molinari's was picture perfect with six birdies and even when the Italian put
his ball into water on the final hole he managed to save par.
Molinari, a two-time winner of the Italian Open, is all too
mindful of what happened last year but he is keen to add his name to the list
of previous Italian winners.
"It would be amazing to win here with such a
tradition," said Molinari.
"It's a course that is in the heart of Italian golfers,
as well, with Costantino (Rocca in 1996) and Matteo (Manassero in 2013) winning
here in the past," added the 35-year-old.
Noren - who denied Molinari last year with a scintillating
last round 62 - is very much still in contention posting three successive
birdies early on the back nine before handing those shots back but finished
with two more birdies.
Veteran Lee Westwood is also lying ready to pounce as he
carded a second successive 69 - leaving the 45-year-old Englishman five off
Westwood, who was named a Ryder Cup vice-captain earlier in
the week but if he won the PGA could easily qualify for the team in a competition
he has reserved some of his finest golf for, said he was delighted to be in
with a chance of victory.
"I figured if the breeze got up Rory would drop some
shots," said Westwood.
"I think being in contention in these big tournaments
is what it's all about.
"It's where you want to be, and it's nice to have a
Leading scores after the third round of the PGA Championship at Wentworth golf course on Saturday (GBR & IRL unless stated, par 72):
203 - Rory McIlroy 67-65-71, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 70-67-66
207 - Ross Fisher 71-68-68, Branden Grace (RSA) 69-69-69, Sam Horsfield 67-68-72, Alex Noren (SWE) 69-68-70
208 - Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 68-69-71, Sebastien Gros (FRA) 69-66-73, Mikko Korhonen (FIN) 68-70-70, Lee Westwood 70-69-69
209 - Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN) 65-73-71, Darren Fichardt (RSA) 66-72-71, Lasse Jensen (DEN) 68-70-71, Marcus Kinhult (SWE) 74-67-68, Robert Rock 69-68-72
210 - Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP) 72-68-70, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 69-72-69, Shane Lowry 69-71-70, Erik van Rooyen (RSA) 70-69-71, Matt Wallace 72-69-69
211 - Paul Casey 72-70-69, Matthew Fitzpatrick 67-71-73, Graeme McDowell 71-67-73, Richie Ramsay 69-71-71, Chris Wood 72-68-71, Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR) 69-69-73