KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy, seeking his second major title, repelled a withering early charge by Ian Poulter to lead by three shots after five holes in Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship.
With low scoring the order of the day on an Ocean Course softened by heavy rain earlier in the week, the Northern Irishman birdied the second and third to get to nine under before parring the next two holes.
Britain’s Poulter, who made a sizzling start with birdies on the first five holes before adding another at the seventh, was alone in second after missing a six-footer to bogey the par-three eighth.
Swede Carl Pettersson, despite being slapped with a two-stroke penalty after his clubhead touched a dry leaf in a hazard on the first hole, was a further stroke back at five under after five holes.
Four-times champion Tiger Woods, hunting his first major crown in over four years, rolled in a 10-footer to birdie the par-five seventh and join fellow American Jimmy Walker and Swede Peter Hanson at four under.
Walker had completed eight holes and Hanson six.
However, the season’s final major was McIlroy’s to win or lose as he worked his way toward the turn.
Wearing a last-day red shirt in the trademark manner of 14-times major champion Woods, McIlroy safely parred the first before conjuring an unexpected birdie at the par-five where he pulled his second shot onto mulch under trees.
From there, he struck his approach to six feet and coolly sank the putt. The Northern Irishman also birdied the par-four third, rolling in an eight-footer, to restore his three-shot cushion.
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.
Pettersson was handed a two-stroke penalty for appearing to ground his club inside a hazard line on the opening hole, transforming the par he recorded there into a double-bogey six.
The Swede was informed of the decision by PGA Tour rules official David Price after he teed off at the par-four fourth. Pettersson remarkably went on to birdie that hole, and the fifth.
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