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64-foot eagle putt launches McIlroy's charge up the leaderboard at PGA Championship
An Aussie still leads though… and it’s not Jason Day

Updated at 22.30pm 

AUSTRALIAN MATT JONES took a two-stroke lead into the third round of the PGA Championship on Saturday on a Whistling Straits course yielding a bevy of early birdies.

Journeyman Jones completed a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 on Saturday morning for an 11-under total of 133 and a two-stroke lead over fellow Aussie Jason Day.

Day, like Jones among the 57 players who had to complete the second round on Saturday after a fierce thunderstorm halted play on the previous evening, carded a five-under 67 that gave him sole possession of second place on nine-under 135.

England’s Justin Rose was in third place after completing a 67 for 136 — and all of the top three opened the third round with birdies on what promised to be an action-packed afternoon on a suddenly hospitable Whistling Straits course.

Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth, who started the day five off the lead on six-under 138, also opened with a birdie to reach seven-under.

Spieth is trying to join Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only men to win three major titles in the same year.

The 22-year-old Texan can also topple Rory McIlroy from the top of the world rankings this week.

McIlroy, whose PGA Championship title defense got off to a slow start with back-to-back 71s, surged early in the third round with two birdies and an eagle in his first five holes before bogeys at the sixth and eighth set him back.

But plenty of other players were making moves.

“The conditions are good,” said American Boo Weekley, who posted eight birdies in a seven-under 65 for six-under 210.

“It ain’t blowing like it has the first two days. It was a little softer after the rain we had.”

Phil Mickelson fired nine birdies and three bogeys in a six-under 66 that he said could have been much lower.

“With the three three-putts and a couple other bogeys and mistakes that I made, it could have been in the low 60s and possibly broken the major record,” he said. “That would have been special. But you just can’t make those kind of mistakes.”

Mickelson thought the course might toughen up a bit, but added: “I think the leaders have a very gettable golf course as well.”

A key for Jones will be controling his nerves as he leads a major for the first time.

“For me, it’s amazing to be in the lead at a major,” he said. “I’ve been in the lead on a tour event, but a major’s a different story.”

Day, ranked fifth in the world, is no stranger to contending on golf’s biggest stages. He has finished in at least a tie for second in three majors and has nine top-10 finishes — most recently a tie for fourth at the British Open.

“I’ve put myself in the position, so the only thing I have to change is the end result,” Day said.

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However, he said before he could think of lifting the Wanamaker trophy, he had to make sure he positions himself well for Sunday.

“I’ve just got to be patient with myself and not get too far ahead of myself,” he said.

Among those who won’t have a chance for a weekend charge is Tiger Woods, who missed the cut at his third major in a row.

It was another new low for Woods, who had already missed back-to-back cuts in grand slam events for the first time when he flopped at the US and British Opens.

Woods completed a one-over-par 73 in the second round on Saturday morning, but the damage had been done with his three-over 75 in the first and his four-over total of 148 saw him miss the cut by two.

Other notable names who won’t be around for the weekend include British Open winner Zach Johnson — doomed by uncharacteristic struggles with the driver — and former major winners Adam Scott and Padraig Harrington.

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© – AFP 2015

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