Masterful Molinari looks ready for overdue Wentworth glory
McIlroy stumbles from blocks in round three
Sky Sports Golf, 11am Sunday
Story so far
Tee-times for round four of the BMW PGA Championship have been brought forward in a bid to complete the tournament on an unsettled Sunday – the competitors will go out in threeballs and the final trio are scheduled off at 11am.
Thunderstorms are forecast all day in Virginia Water, so a stop-start final round could be in store. A Monday finish is a possibility.
Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari and Ross Fisher comprise the final group. McIlroy and Molinari are co-leaders, while Fisher is one of a quartet of players who are tied for third place, four shots behind the pacesetting duo.
McIlroy squandered a three-shot 36-hole advantage with a sloppy Saturday performance on a course playing firmer than it had for the first two rounds. Birdies at the final two holes though – including a hugely fortunate one at the 18th – meant the four-times Major champion reclaimed a share of leadership for Sunday.
McIlroy is 9-10 favourite with 18 holes to go at the famous Wentworth venue, while Molinari, who carded a flawless third-round 66, is a 2-1 chance.
-13 Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari
-9 Sam Horsfield, Branden Grace, Alex Noren, Ross Fisher
-8 Sebastien Gros, Mikko Korhonen, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Lee Westwood
9-10 R McIlroy, 2 F Molinari, 16 A Noren, 18 B Grace, 30 R Fisher, 66 K Aphibarnrat, S Horsfield, 70 L Westwood, 150 bar
Rory McIlroy smashed his ball into two female spectators at Wentworth in round three. The first one on the sixth hole did not really matter – aside from the bruised hand the young lady suffered – but the second one on the 18th hole could be crucial in determining the destiny of the PGA title.
McIlroy badly hooked his drive at the 18th, his ball heading out of bounds, but the vast gallery which the former world number one commanded saved his day. The blocked ball could be safely laid up on the par-five, from where the Northern Irishman hit a superb pitch at the flag and made birdie.
McIlroy was struggling with his swing all day, but the bonus birdie he claimed at the 18th put a spring in his step heading for the clubhouse.
The tournament looked at the mercy of McIlroy until he went three over par through six holes of round three, and it is difficult to trust him at odds-on to successfully finish the job on Sunday. An opportunity to take total charge of the event was spurned and the task of achieving a first European Tour victory for more than two years has become much tougher.
McIlroy has some recent emotional baggage to deal with from being in the final group on a Sunday. He was beaten by Haotong Li in a duel for the Dubai Desert Classic title at the end of January, then laboured to a final-round 74 when destroyed by Patrick Reed in the final twoball of the Masters.
The gap between McIlroy and Molinari in the betting looks too large. Molinari is an overdue a Wentworth title – the London-based Italian can boast magnificent form figures of 7-9-7-5-55-2 from his last six PGA starts – and he relishes the layout.
Nobody played better than Molinari on Saturday – it was an awesome ball-striking display, which he so often serves up, but his short game was in good nick as well. He produced a sublime chip-in from the back of the 14th for birdie, having lipped out with an eagle chip on the 12th. When Molinari is in control on and around the greens, he is a force to be reckoned with, and that appears to be the case this week.
Molinari, putting with a conventional stroke again after a long spell with the pencil grip, has taken less than 28 putts per round over the first three days. That is encouraging for this greens in regulation machine.
Molinari, winner of the WGC-HSBC Champions in 2010 and a two-time Ryder Cup winner, has what it takes to claim the PGA trophy. McIlroy headed to the practice ground after his third round, eager to work on his technique, but Molinari had no such worries and looks a big price at 2-1.
Racing Post Sport followers have no need to get involved at that price – Molinari was the ante-post 'next-best' at 22-1 – but punters yet to strike a bet should consider him. The four-shot gap between McIlroy and Molinari and the chasing pack should prove decisive – one of the front two should be victorious – and the value lies with the outsider of the pair.
The shocking weather forecast aids the cause of Molinari, who has a short, punchy, repetitive swing which he can turn on and off like a light switch. McIlroy is more of a rhythm player, who will be hampered if the anticipated storms cause numerous suspensions.
Final-round threeballs punters are pointed towards Shane Lowry, who, like Molinari, hardly ever puts a foot wrong at Wentworth. Lowry will not fear whatever the weather gods throw his way on Sunday and the Irishman can defeat Erik van Rooyen and Paul Casey in the 9.55am contest.
2pts 9-5 Betfair, Power
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