Seeking first PGA Tour win, McGirt leads by two

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Seeking first PGA Tour win, McGirt leads by two

Little-known American William McGirt, seeking his first PGA Tour win, broke clear of a congested leaderboard to seize a two-shot lead in Saturday’s third round of the Northern Trust Open.

Two strokes off the pace when the delayed second round was completed earlier in the day, the 34-year-old journeyman took advantage of several favorable pin positions with superb all-round golf to fire a six-under-par 65.

McGirt birdied five of his first six holes, then picked up three more shots in the first four holes after the turn on the way to a 12-under total of 201 in the PGA Tour event at a firm and fast-running Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California.

“Played really solid, hit a lot of good iron shots and good putts,” McGirt said after mixing eight birdies with two bogeys on a day of hazy sunshine and occasional cloud cover. “Just one of those days you could see the line.

“On the putting green, my stroke felt fast and I’ve been working hard trying to slow it down. Nothing felt good warming up, the putter didn’t feel good and the swing really didn’t feel good.

“Maybe there’s something to it,” McGirt said with a broad grin. “I hit a lot of good shots, and starting out the hole looked like a washtub. All in all, it was pretty good all day.”

George McNeill, a double winner on the U.S. circuit, carded a 66 after eagling the par-five first to finish at 10 under, level with fellow American Charlie Beljan (68).

Two more Americans, left-hander Brian Harman (68) and Monday qualifier Jason Allred (67), were a further stroke back in a tie for fourth.

Eleven players were within four strokes of McGirt’s lead, including former Masters champions Bubba Watson (64) and Charl Schwartzel (68), multiple PGA Tour winner Dustin Johnson (69) and 2013 PGA Tour rookie of the year Jordan Spieth (67).

“This is what we strive to do, have a chance on Sunday,” American left-hander Watson said after piling up seven birdies in a bogey-free display to finish four off the pace. “I’m looking for the back nine tomorrow, having a chance.”

Reuters

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