American McGirt grabs two-shot lead at Riviera

PACIFIC PALISADES, California Sat Feb 15, 2014 6:14pm EST

1 of 2. February 15, 2014; Pacific Palisades, CA, USA; William McGirt hits from the third hole tee during the third round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Little known American William McGirt, seeking his first PGA Tour win, broke clear of a congested leaderboard to seize a two-shot lead in Saturday's third round of the Northern Trust Open.

Two strokes off the pace when the delayed second round was completed earlier in the day, the 34-year-old journeyman took advantage of several favorable pin positions with superb all-round golf to fire a six-under-par 65.

McGirt birdied five of his first six holes, then picked up three more shots in the first four holes after the turn on the way to a 12-under total of 201 in the PGA Tour event at Riviera Country Club.

"Played really solid, hit a lot of good iron shots and good putts," McGirt told reporters after mixing eight birdies with two bogeys on a day of hazy sunshine and occasional cloud cover. "Just one of those days you could see the line."

George McNeill, a double winner on the U.S. circuit, carded a 66 after eagling the par-five first to finish at 10 under, level with fellow American Charlie Beljan (68).

Two more Americans, left-hander Brian Harman (68) and Monday qualifier Jason Allred (67), were a further stroke back in a tie for fourth.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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