Saturdays at golf tournaments are often referred to as “moving day” with players jockeying for final-day position.
At this year’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, there was not much moving going on Saturday. The leaderboard looked eerily similar to how Friday ended.
The same three players — Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson — still formed the top three. But there was one huge caveat. Instead of Adam Scott being in first, McIlroy took over that position Saturday, shooting a tidy 4-under-par 68 for a three-day total of 12-under 204 over the Blue Monster course at Trump National Doral.
That enabled McIlroy to forge a three-shot lead over Scott and Johnson heading into Sunday’s final round.
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“I really feel good about my game,” McIlroy said, although a week ago he wasn’t feeling so good about it after he missed the cut at the Honda Classic.
McIlroy has put that less-than-lackluster effort behind him.
“To be honest, to miss the cut and to be able to sleep in your own bed, it’s not too bad,” he said smiling.
Also not too bad was his four-birdie, no-bogey effort on Saturday
“To play the last 36 holes on a course like this with just one bogey on the card is really what I wanted to achieve this week,” he said.
And if he does win the Cadillac Championship, the world’s No. 3-ranked player will also achieve a share of history.
Only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won 12 PGA Tour events before the age of 27, and McIlroy, 26, can match that Sunday.
“To be mentioned with them, that’s flattering and special,” McIlroy said. “It’s up to me to go out and do it. I haven’t done it yet.
“There’s 18 holes to negotiate out there and, hopefully, I will join that illustrious company. But I need to concentrate and play a good round of golf.”
How will he accomplish that good round?
“I need to be aggressive and assertive,” he said.
Scott, 35, who won last week’s Honda Classic, started Saturday with a two-stroke lead but struggled to a 1-over 73.
“To fall three back, nothing really went my way,” Scott said. “It’s not the round you need. Rory played the round everyone was looking for out there.”
Like Scott, Johnson is looking at a three-stroke deficit to McIlroy after Saturday’s 1-under 71.
However, Johnson, 31, knows a thing or five on how to close on a leader. A year ago, he came from five strokes back on the last day to win the Cadillac Championship.
Nevertheless, he admitted a repeat comeback won’t be easy.
“I’m going to have to go out and shoot a really good score,” Johnson said. “Rory is obviously playing well.
“On this golf course, there’s trouble on just about every hole,” Johnson warned both himself and the other leaders.
In a three-way tie for fourth at 7-under 209, five behind McIlroy, were Phil Mickelson (70), Bubba Watson (71) and relative unknown Danny Willett (72) of England.
Mickelson seemed the happiest and most optimistic of that threesome.
Of Sunday’s final round, Mickelson said: “I have an opportunity to go out in front of the leaders and put some pressure on them to make birdies. That’s my plan. See how low I can shoot and put some pressure on the leaders.
“I know I’m going to hit it well.”
Sergio Garcia (67), Rafa Cabrera Bello (67) and Anirban Lahiri (71) were tied for seventh at 5-under. Garcia and Cabrera Bello had the low rounds of the third round.
World No. 1 Jordan Spieth is 2-under after a lackluster 1-over 73.