KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy, seeking his second major title, preserved his three-shot lead by making a comfortable par on the par-four opening hole in Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship.
Wearing a last-day red shirt in the trademark manner of 14-times major champion Tiger Woods, McIlroy found the fairway off the tee, hit his second shot to the lower portion of the green and safely two-putted.
That left the Northern Irishman at seven under par in the season’s final major, three ahead of Swede Carl Pettersson, after one hole, and Britain’s Ian Poulter, who made a sizzling birdie-birdie-birdie start.
Woods, hunting his first major crown in over four years, was a further stroke back in a tie for fourth, having birdied the par-five second where his eagle attempt from 20 feet slid past the edge of the cup.
Level with Woods were fellow American Jimmy Walker, who birdied the first two holes, Swede Peter Hanson, after two holes, Australian Adam Scott, after two, and American Bo Van Pelt, after one.
Though 2011 U.S. Open champion McIlroy was in overall command on a hot and breezy afternoon at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the tournament was up for grabs with 14 players within six shots of the lead after 54 holes.
Among the other big names in contention, twice champion Vijay Singh of Fiji was at two under, after two holes, and Ireland’s triple major winner Padraig Harrington was at one under, after three.
McIlroy, who moved three strokes clear by firing a five-under-par 67 in the weather-delayed third which was completed earlier on Sunday, is aiming to end a run of 16 majors won by different players.
The 23-year-old clinched last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional by a staggering eight shots but has not since contended in one of golf’s grand slam events until this week.
Conditions are expected to remain mainly sunny and breezy at Kiawah Island for the rest of the afternoon, with a slight chance of thunderstorms.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue