Palm Beach Gardens: Rory McIlroy was steady rather than spectacular as he extended his lead to two strokes after the third round at the $6 million Honda Classic in south Florida on Saturday.
McIlroy missed only one green on the water-lined back nine as he compiled a one-under-par 69 in a moderate breeze at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.
Two-time Major champion McIlroy, whose gallery included fiancee, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, posted a 12-under 198 total. American Russell Henley (68), boosted by an unlikely eagle at the par-four 14th, moved into second place on 10-under, with Scotsman Russell Knox (68) alone in third position on nine-under.
Tiger Woods had his best round of the year, a 65, to move within seven strokes.
Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge started the day one stroke from the lead, but finished it eight behind after an error-strewn 76.
Henley recorded his eagle with a wedge from 150 yards. His ball stayed in the air for almost six seconds, landed a couple of inches beyond the cup and found the hole on the first bounce. “I thought 69 in these conditions was a pretty good score,” the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland told a news channel.
“You can’t really get away with anything (on this golf course). You really have to be in control with your ball and for the most part this week I have been.”
Henley produced an encore when he rammed home a 50-foot putt from the fringe at the par-three 17th. His ball was motoring at speed when it hit the back of the hole, jumped a couple of inches in the air and dropped in.
“It felt like a really great swing,” said Henley. “It was a pretty cool feeling. I hit it a little too hard but it felt really good coming off the clubface,” he said.
Henley, 24, who has won once on the PGA Tour, knows he likely needs a hot final round to catch McIlroy, who has won the past three times when he has held the 54-hole lead. His advantage could have been larger, because birdie putts at the final two holes shaved the cup without dropping.