McIlroy makes slow progress

Rory McIlroy had a difficult start to his third round (AP)

Rory McIlroy had a difficult start to his third round (AP)

First published in National Sport © by

A Valhalla course set up for low scoring succeeded in producing early drama in the third round of the 96th US PGA Championship, although not perhaps as expected.

More than a dozen players had broken 70 by the time the final group of Rory McIlroy and Jason Day teed off at 3pm local time, but the leading duo were soon scrambling for spectacular pars rather than picking up birdies.

Day hooked his tee shot on the second so badly that it cleared Floyd's Fork, the creek running down the left-hand side of the hole, and into deep grass on the far side.

Television commentator David Feherty initially looked to be searching for the ball in order for Day to work out where he could take a penalty drop, but the Australian then sent his caddie Colin Swatton to wade through the creek to assist.

When the ball was found in a good enough lie for Day to be able to play it, the 26-year-old then took his shoes and socks off as well and made the journey across to the other side.

Instructing Swatton to "throw me a pitching wedge", Day duly hacked out of the rough, pitched onto the green and holed from 12 feet for a remarkable par.

Two holes later it was McIlroy's turn to escape with a par after pulling his drive into a hazard on the par-four fourth, which had been reduced to 292 yards to allow players to try to drive the green.

After taking a drop McIlroy pitched to 11 feet and holed the putt, although he was joined in the lead by Day who was left with a tap-in birdie after missing from close range for an eagle.

Both players then made birdie on the fifth to move to 10 under par, one ahead of Jim Furyk and two clear of Rickie Fowler and Ryan Palmer.

England's Lee Westwood, seeking a first major title at the 67th attempt, had shown McIlroy just how to play the fourth hole, hitting his drive to three feet and holing for an eagle two to move to seven under.

American Hunter Mahan had set the early clubhouse target on seven under par after a 65 which equalled the lowest round of the week.

England's Danny Willett had looked on course for something even better after playing his first 13 holes in six under, meaning he needed to play the final five in three under to shoot the first ever 62 in a major.

However, Willett bogeyed the 14th and had to settle for a 66 to finish six under. "I had no clue about the record to be honest. I was just trying to go forward and keep pushing," he told Press Association Sport.

"I didn't hit the ball fantastic but just scored phenomenally, especially as my back was not feeling great this morning."

McIlroy reclaimed the lead when Day bogeyed the sixth after a wild drive and the Northern Irishman was two clear when he holed from five feet on the par-five seventh for birdie.

However, McIlroy duffed his chip from the edge of the eighth green to drop his first shot of the day and was just one ahead of Day, Fowler and Palmer, with European trio Henrik Stenson, Mikko Ilonen and Bernd Wiesberger another stroke back on a crowded leaderboard.

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