McIlroy is 11 under overall and 2 under today through 11 holes at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.
The 25-year-old Northern Irishman is coming off wins at the British Open and Bridgestone Invitational that pushed him to No. 1 in the world ranking. He’s seeking to become the fifth golfer since 1980 to win three straight U.S. PGA Tour starts, joining Woods, Tom Watson, David Duval and Vijay Singh. He has a chance to become the fourth-youngest golfer with four major titles after Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Morris Jr.
Australia’s Jason Day, American Jim Furyk, Mikko Ilonen of Finland and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger are tied for fourth at 9 under.
After overnight rain left the course soggy, players said the lack of wind and soft conditions have led to favorable scoring conditions.
“Seems like 4 or 5 under is about even par today,” said Adam Scott of Australia, who entered the tournament as the oddsmakers’ second favorite behind McIlroy. He shot 5 under today to reach 7 under overall. “It’s just playing so easy.”
Tiger Woods is no longer in the tournament after missing the 36-hole cut at a major golf tournament for the fourth time since turning professional in 1996.
McIlroy and Day, who are paired in the day’s final group, each scrambled for pars and birdies early on to stay near the top of a congested leaderboard, which features marquee players including Phil Mickelson.
Day saved a par on the second hole after hitting his tee shot into tall grass left of a creek lining the edge of the fairway. Day and his caddie, Colin Swatton, both removed their shoes and socks to cross the creek to locate his ball. After hitting his second shot in bare feet with his pants pulled up over his knees, Day reached the green with his third and sank an 11-foot par putt.
McIlroy hit a 3-wood into the trees on the left side of the par-4 fourth hole, which had been shortened to 290 yards today. After a one-shot penalty, McIlroy was able to save a par moments after Day sank a birdie putt. Both birdied the par-4 fifth hole to reach 10 under overall.
McIlroy reclaimed the lead with birdies on the seventh and 10 holes, while Day dropped to 9 under with a bogey on the sixth.
Fowler, who finished in the top five of the season’s three previous majors, had three birdies through his opening 10 holes to tie McIlroy.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at firstname.lastname@example.org Dex McLuskey