McIlroy looks primed for more Quail Hollow magic
Wells Fargo Championship - story of round three
FAVOURITE Rory McIlroy played his best round of the week, a 66, to move into fourth place behind local hero Webb Simpson in the Wells Fargo Championship and needs only to stay inside the top seven to regain the world No. 1 spot from Luke Donald, setting up a great showdown at this week's so-called "fifth Major", the Players Championship.
McIlroy, who has improved two shots each day, is 5-2 to win for the second time in three years at QuailHollow, where he shot a ten-under-par final round of 62 to spreadeagle his rivals two years ago.
He may yet have cause to regret the tiny putt he missed for par on the 16th, only the second blemish in an eight-birdie blitz round which kicked off with a sizzling 3-2-3 start.
Even though he ranks third in driving, sixth in greens-in-regulaton and seventh in putting this week, the 23-year-old Irishman still left shots out on the course, sothere may be even better to come. He adores the course and will be fancying his chances of scoring his third victory in the States.
Rickie Fowler, also 23 and regarded by many as America's answer to McIlroy, lurks dangerously in sixth after a 67 but will need to step up on his Sunday scoring average of 71.38 if he is to emulate Jason Dufner and become a first-time winner.
Halfway leader Nick Watney pulledhis drive into the water and dropped a shot at the last in a disappointing 72 and is back sharing fourth with McIlroy, leaving DA Points and Ryan Moore as Simpson's closest challengers one shot off the pace.
Geoff Ogilvy came shooting up the leaderboard with a seven-under, best-of-the-day 65 to share eighth place with fellow Aussie John Senden, who did his usual trick of going backwards once he hit the front.
Leaderboard: -14 Simpson, -13 Moore, Points, -12 McIlroy, Watney, -11 Fowler, Cink, -10 Ogilvy, McNeill, Senden, -9 Crane, -8 Blixt, Lee, Noh.
Best prices: 2 Simpson, 5-2 McIlroy, 7 Moore, 9 Watney, 10 Points, 16 Fowler, 33 Cink, 35 Ogilvy, 40 Senden, 66 Crane, McNeill, 150 Noh
Webb Simpson, who is a Quail Hollow member and lives in Charlotte, the city which hosts this tournament, would be the most popular winner tonight but the 26-year-old is under pressure to please all his fans in North Carolina and has not delivered what was expected of him after his two wins and second place to Donald on last year's final US money list.
He could be worth taking on at 2-1 even though he hinted at better things to come with 13th place in New Orleans last weekend and what stops me putting himup are some feeble Sunday performances, 78s at the Masters and Bay Hill, 77 at Doral, even 73 at Heritage was his worst round of that week as was 72 when he finished eighth at Phoenix.
With that spine-tingling 62 in mind from two years ago, it's hard to get away from McIlroy at 5-2. He's the class act now that Mickelson, Westwood and Woods have all failed to perform.
Fowler has a poor Sunday record, only 80th best according to the stats, but one day he will get it right and he does have a good course record, sixth and 16th on two previous visits. At 4-1 a place the first three, he's worth a saver.
On the twoball front, try JB Holmes (3.55), Ben Curtis (4.25) and Fowler (6.15) in a Patent.
Holmes is a generous 21-20 with BetVictor to beat Scot Martin Laird who is out of form, 19 over par for his last four outings (two missed cuts), whereas JB was ninth here last year and 13th in New Orleans at the weekend where Laird took an early bath.
Curtis, evens with BetVictor, scored his first victory for six years in Texas and is continuing with that adrenaline rush, placing 13th in New Orleans and heading for another fair finish here whereas opponent Spencer Levin, possessor of one of the most horrible swings on tour, had until Friday not broken 70 since March 3. He was a long way behind Curtis in Texas and New Orleans.
Fowler's course and current form is superior to Watney's who has not posted a top ten this year although he may put that right today.
Rickie boy, who looks more and more like one of Captain Hook's pirates from Peter Pan every week, will be firing at the flags in a bid to score that elusive first victory but Dufner showed him the way last week and that may inspire him to a better Sunday performance than he has been showing us.
McIlroy, 2pts 5-2 general
Fowler, 1pt each-way 16-1 Bet365, Ladbrokes
1pt Patent on Holmes 21-20, Curtis evens, Fowler evens BetVictor