McIlroy moves ahead by 2 at Honda Classic
Palm Beach Gardens, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Rory McIlroy carded a 1-under 69 on Saturday to increase his lead at the Honda Classic to two strokes.
McIlroy, who won this event in 2012 and is seeking his seventh career title on the PGA Tour, finished three rounds on the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa at 12-under-par 198.
"The wind was coming from a slightly different direction, which made a few of the holes play a little easier, but it made the last few holes play quite tough," said McIlroy. "I thought 69 in the conditions was a pretty good score and I'm happy to maintain the lead that I had."
Russell Henley (68) is in second place at 10-under, Russell Knox (68) owns third at 9-under and Jhonattan Vegas (66) occupies fourth at 8-under 202.
Luke Donald (68), Keegan Bradley (66), Stuart Appleby (65) and Ryan Palmer (69) shared fifth place at 7-under.
Tiger Woods fired his best round of the season with a 5-under 65 to move into a group of seven players tied for 17th at 5-under-par 205. Also among that group is Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner Zach Johnson and 14-time winner on the European Tour Thomas Bjorn.
McIlroy entered the day with a 1-stroke lead and maintained that advantage throughout the day. He traded birdies at the first with Brendon de Jonge to remain on top.
McIlroy and de Jonge again had matching birdies at the third to move to 13- under and 12-under, respectively, before de Jonge failed to get up and down for par from a greenside bunker at the fourth to hand McIlroy a 2-stroke cushion.
De Jonge then found the water off the tee at the sixth en route to a double- bogey 6, dropping him to minus-9.
McIlroy, however, 2-putted for bogey at the same hole to fall to 12-under, and followed that by missing the green at the par-3 seventh for another bogey to cut his lead to two.
De Jonge briefly got within one of McIlroy with a 12-foot birdie putt at the eighth, but then bogeyed the ninth to drop back to 9-under.
Vegas, meanwhile, converted back-to-back birdie efforts from inside 10 feet at the 15th and 16th to meet de Jonge in second place.
Vegas had countered a pair of bogeys with five birdies over his first 14 holes prior to that set of gains.
He was then left alone in second place when de Jonge hit his second short of the green and into the water at the 11th. He would eventually 2-putt for a double bogey to fall to 7-under.
McIlroy stretched his advantage to three strokes with a five-foot birdie at the 12th, and was handed a 4-stroke lead when Vegas closed his round with a bogey at the 18th to finish at 8-under.
But Henley holed out his second shot from 150 yards at the 14th for an eagle to move to minus-10 and within two of McIlroy.
"It felt like a great swing. I looked up and lost (the ball), then I saw it again and it was going right at the flag," Henley said about his shot. "I saw it land by the hole, and then I couldn't see it and didn't know where it went. It was a pretty cool feeling."
Henley followed with a bogey at the 15th to drop to 9-under, but McIlroy also dropped a shot at the 14th to fall to 11-under and maintain a 2-stroke lead.
McIlroy briefly grabbed a 3-stroke lead with a 9-foot birdie putt at the 16th, but Henley answered with a 48-foot birdie putt from just off the green at the 17th to remain within two.
Henley parred the 18th to finish at 10-under, while McIlroy also parred the last to end a 12-under and carry a 2-stroke lead into the final round.
NOTES: McIlroy has converted three of his four career 54-hole leads into victories ... McIlroy also had a 2-stroke lead entering the final round when he won this event in 2012 ... Since moving to PGA National in 2007, Ernie Els in 2008 is the only 54-hole leader to not hang on for the victory ... De Jonge is making his 188th start on the PGA Tour without a win ... With 79 players making the cut on Friday, there was a secondary cut on Saturday to trim the field to 70. Among those to be cut were Davis Love III, Mark Calcavecchia and Y.E. Yang.
03/01 21:16:36 ET