McIlroy remains in control

Rory McIlroy leads the Honda Classic by two shots with one round to play (AP)

Rory McIlroy leads the Honda Classic by two shots with one round to play (AP)

First published in National Sport News © by

Former world number one Rory McIlroy moved to within touching distance of his first PGA Tour title since 2012 as his third-round 69 sent him into the final day of the Honda Classic with a two-shot lead.

The Northern Irishman had his least convincing round of the week mixing four birdies with three bogeys - although he was unlucky not to pick up another couple of shots with putts that went close - but his performance was enough to put him 12 under, two clear of American Russell Henley.

Scotland's Russell Knox was third on nine under after matching Henley's 68, with Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas one back in fourth, while another Briton, Luke Donald, was among four men sharing fifth on seven under.

McIlroy had some frustrating near misses with putter in hand but he told pgatour.com: "I'm happy to maintain the lead I had, to extend it by a shot and shoot under par.

"It was tricky conditions, the wind was stronger than it has been all week. I think anything under par, especially if you were in the last few groups, was a good score."

McIlroy was not quite at his best, missing a couple of short putts and also requiring a drop at the seventh when he escaped with a bogey which could have been much worse.

He also suffered some misfortune, though, with excellent putts at 17 and 18 which just did not drop.

"If I can just keep hitting the fairways and hitting the greens sooner or later they're going to drop for me," he said.

Of his final round, he added: "More of the same. I'm two ahead. This course is all about putting your ball in play, trying not to make mistakes, picking up birdies when you can.

"If you can limit the damage as much as possible I think that's the key, especially when conditions are like this."

Henley's round was highlighted by an eagle at the 14th, when he holed from 150 yards.

Knox, meanwhile, carded birdies at 16 and 17 to boost his chances on the final day.

"I would have taken 68 before I teed off. It was windy, it was tough out there," he said. "I'm thrilled.

"Hopefully I can do the same tomorrow. I feel great out there. I look forward to my chance. You never know."

Tiger Woods produced a 65 in calmer conditions earlier in the day to shoot up the leaderboard at five under, but Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge, second overnight, had a nightmare day with a 76 that dropped him down to a share of 24th.

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