McIlroy’s pat on the back came after Bradley shot the low round of the day to take a two-stroke lead into the final round. But the four-time major champion did put himself somewhat back in contention as well, especially considering he made the cut Friday afternoon on the number.
He’s six shots behind Bradley but has had his share of sublime Sunday scoring. The most recent came last month, when he holed out from the bunker at the 72nd hole for an 8-under 64 in the final round at the Masters, finishing second with the lowest round of the tournament.
“I mean six shots is still six shots,” McIlroy said. “It depends on what the weather is like tomorrow. I’d like it to be pretty tough. It’s probably not going to be as wet. It’s going to be quite cold. I don’t know what the wind is going to be like. I can’t imagine tomorrow being any tougher than today was.”
McIlroy’s round began on the back nine with bogeys at Nos. 10 and 11, but he settled in with a birdie at the par-3 12th, hitting his tee shot within nine feet and making the putt. The three-time Wells Fargo champion, including last year in Charlotte, added a birdie at the 301-yard par-4 14th.
He closed his first nine with consecutive birdies. At the par-3 17th playing 175 yards, McIlroy’s tee shot came to rest nine feet from the pin just off the fringe and steps from a bunker protecting the back left. He made that putt to continue a splendid performance on the greens.
At the 450-yard par-4 18th, McIlroy’s approach landed inside of six feet, and the ball disappeared into the hole on his next stroke as part of just 24 putts in his round, the fewest of any player in the field Saturday.
McIlroy is first in the Wells Fargo Championship in fewest putts (72) and 17th in strokes gained putting.
Putting pushed the Northern Irishman into the weekend after McIlroy holed a seven-footer on his 36th hole Friday afternoon to get to even par.
“When you see conditions like this, you have a pretty upbeat attitude toward it,” said McIlroy, who has played frequently in similar weather in Europe. “I mean, I was just grateful to be here. I didn’t play great [Friday], but I was able to just hang in there and make that par on 18. Attitude was just happy to be here and then just try to make the most of the next couple of days.”
James Hahn got an extended tour of TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm courtesy of spraying iron shots all over the layout. But he summoned an exquisite short game, underscored by his first-place standing in scrambling through 54 holes, to move into a tie for third place with Anirban Lahiri.
He shot 2-over 72 with three bogeys, including missing an 11-foot putt at No. 18, and a lone birdie at No 7.
Hahn had a three-hole stretch of daring escapes that saw him make pars from greenside bunkers each time (holes Nos. 8-10). The capper came when he was 68 yards out and blasted his sand shot within two feet at the par-5 10th.
“Biggest grind that I’ve had a in a long time,” Hahn said. “I don’t like counting how many up-and-downs that I had. … Had a really good day out there. It was fun.”