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SIPA USA/PA Images Rory McIlroy.
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'Rollercoaster' for Rory - Late surge sees McIlroy in contention in Florida
Collin Morikawa leads the WGC-Workday Championship by two.

RORY MCILROY CARDED an eventful 66 as a day three surge on the back-nine saw the four-time major winner move back into contention at the World Golf Championships – Workday Championship in Florida.

Former world number one McIlroy, whose double-bogey at the second was his second of the week, was buoyed by an eagle at the par-five 13th and seven birdies — and in turn, joined former Masters champion Patrick Reed (69) on 205, four shots off Collin Morikawa’s lead.

The Holywood star said patience was key on the unfamiliar course, which is hosting the event after coronavirus pandemic logistical issues forced the move of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

“It seems like it’s one of these courses where it gives up a lot of birdies and some eagles and stuff, but it can bite you very quickly without really doing much wrong,” McIlroy said.

I’ve been riding the rollercoaster a little bit, but it felt a little better today.”

“It’s okay. It’s nowhere near what I feel like I can play. I feel like I’m sort of piecing it around. I’m getting it around, put it that way.

“I don’t feel like I’m flushing it by any means but it’s a work in progress and I’m seeing some good signs, which I guess is encouraging.”

World number six Morikawa fired eight birdies in a five-under-par 67 to hold a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Billy Horschel.

Morikawa, who claimed his first major title at the PGA Championship in August, led by as many as five strokes after an impressive run of seven birdies in eight holes at the Concession Golf Club in Bradenton.

“Got off to a really good start and just kept rolling birdie after birdie, really didn’t think about it, game was playing really boring, playing simple, hitting fairways and hitting greens and that’s what we try to do out here every day,” Morikawa said.

Two late bogeys — and strong finishes for both Koepka and Horschel saw his lead shrink.

Koepka got off to a rocky start with bogeys at the first two holes. He pulled a shot back at the third and was back to even for the day after a six-foot birdie at the 12th.

The four-time major winner, seeking his second victory of this month after a win at the Phoenix Open, drained another six-footer at the 16th, then rolled in a 33-foot birdie putt at the 17th on the way to a two-under par 70.

He was joined on 203 by Horschel, who nailed a 14-foot birdie at 16 and a 12-foot eagle putt the par-five 17th — the easiest hole on the course.

workday-championship-golf Pheland M. Ebenhack Leading the way: Morikawa. Pheland M. Ebenhack

Morikawa wasn’t able to take advantage of 17, finding a fairway bunker off the tee and a greenside bunker with his third shot and missing a seven-foot attempt to save par.

He had also dropped a shot at 13 — unable to maintain the momentum that saw him streak ahead of the pack.

A 13-foot birdie at the fifth launched a run of five straight birdies that included a 31-footer at the sixth.

He was still rolling with birdies at 11 and 12 before things got shaky coming in.

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“By the time I hit 13, just had a three-putt kind of stall and never really got it going again,” Morikawa said. “Missed some fairways, kind of was struggling to make pars. But overall just a lot of positives to take into tomorrow.”

Former US Open champion Webb Simpson was alone in third after a 69 for 204.

Morikawa said the potential for disaster at so many holes meant his two-shot lead was far from safe.

“Oh, anything can happen,” he said. “I know all the guys behind me, they’re very capable of going low. That’s why I’ve got to be ready from hole one and be ready all the way through the round tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry carded a disappointing four-over 76 to move back into tied 50th.

© – AFP, 2021

- With reporting from Press Association.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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