PITTSFORD – While the world’s Nos. 1 and 2 players foundered, No. 3 flourished.
Rory McIlroy rocketed up 21 spots on the PGA Championship leader board Saturday with a 3-under-par 67. He is minus-3 for the tournament after rounds of 69 and 71 Thursday and Friday.
McIlroy is tied for seventh place, six shots behind leader Jim Furyk.
“It gives me a bit of confidence knowing that I’ve been in that position before and I’ve been able to win,” McIlroy said in reference to his dominant 2010 win at Quail Hollow, in which he struggled until the final two days. “I know this is a major championship and it’s a bit different, but I felt good enough about my game that I could go out there and post a good one today and at least give myself a chance.”
McIlroy finished his round in the early afternoon and said he would be paying attention to how the leaders finished.
“To play like that on this golf course and do what I needed to do yesterday just to make the cut, and then to go out and play the way I did today — yeah, I mean, it’s been a good stretch of holes,” McIlroy said. “I’ve got another 18 to play, and hopefully I can just keep playing the way I am.”
McIlroy said he hasn’t played his best yet, but Saturday was a good start.
“It was just a matter of trying to get a long game in shape,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that that was my best ball-striking round out there by any means, but I got it up and down when I needed to and that was the most important thing.”
Dustin Johnson was the biggest climber of the day. He moved up 51 spots with a round of 5-under-par 65. Johnson, the 23rd-ranked player in the world, is 2 under for the tournament.
“I felt like I played a lot better than my score was for the first couple of days,” said Johnson, who had rounds of 72 and 71 Thursday and Friday. “Today I hit it really well … I played really well today, drove it well, drove it in the fairway, made some good putts.”
Perhaps one of the biggest changes for Johnson was the lack of rain. Thursday and Friday both brought steady rainfall. On Saturday, the sun was shining, birds were humming and the temperature was in the low to mid 70s.
“This morning the greens were perfect, couldn’t ask for any better,” Johnson said. “Obviously with no rain helped, too — weren’t quite as soft, which was nice.”
Jonas Blixt put himself into the conversation as a contender Saturday with a round of 4-under-par 66. He is in fourth place, 6 under for the tournament and three shots back of Furyk.
What Blixt liked was moving up 10 spots to get into the heart of the title chase.
What he disliked about being in contention was that his successful round meant he had to do a flash interview press conference.
“Feels a little weird to be in here. Feels like going back to college speech class,” said the Swede, who is ranked No. 47 in the world. “I hated that. Now it’s even worse.”
Blixt did not bogey a single hole Saturday.
World No. 25 Hunter Mahan had the biggest drop down the leader board. He hasn’t been happy with his game all week, and he’s certainly not happy now. Mahan dropped 48 spots after an 8-over round put him at 6-over for the tournament.
For the first time ever in a major, fans selected a hole location through the “PGA Championship Pick the Hole Location Challenge Hosted by Jack Nicklaus.”
Out of four options, the fans picked Location C, the location closest to the lake on No. 15. More than 92,000 people voted on pga.com, Facebook and Twitter over the past 19 days.
The pin will be positioned at Location C beginning today.
Today’s forecast calls for a clear, 75-degree day with 54 percent humidity and winds around 8 mph.