Watson leads despite McIlroy surge

Bubba Watson takes a three-shot lead over Justin Rose and Keegan Bradley into the final round of the Cadillac Championship in Miami, but only after Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods had threatened to steal the show on the third day.

New world number one McIlroy gave another demonstration of his enormous talent, charging from 28th place to second, only one behind, by playing the first 12 holes in a staggering nine under par.

But after an eagle and seven birdies McIlroy then bogeyed the 14th and 16th and instead of challenging or even beating the Doral course record of 61 the 22-year-old had to settle for ’only’ a 65.

And with American left-hander Watson, a colossal hitter of the ball, then scoring 67 Northern Ireland’s US Open champion is eight behind in joint eighth.

Rose, with a chance to record his fourth victory in the States and to return to the world top six four years after he was last there, remains Europe’s best hope.

The 31-year-old three-putted the last for a 69, however, and because of it will not be playing with Watson for the fourth day in a row.

Rose predicted a difficult day for Watson as he plotted a way to overhaul the leader.

“It’s not easy playing with a three-shot lead,” the Englishman said.

However, Rose accepted Watson’s past record meant he knew what it would take to win the tournament.

“He’s won enough golf tournaments out on this tour that he’ll know what (to do) tomorrow, but (it is) still never easy,” he said.

“For me, I just have to go out tomorrow and focus on my own game.

“I don’t think I’m too far back to be trying to do anything out of normal tomorrow.”

Woods birdied the first three holes, had another on the sixth and pitched in for par at the short ninth after hitting his tee shot into the water.

There was also a rare birdie at the treacherous 18th to admire, but on the down side the man who finished runner-up to McIlroy at last week’s Honda Classic after a closing 62 had bogey sixes at the eighth and 12th and dropped another stroke on the 14th.

That all added up to a 68 and a matching nine under par aggregate.

Second-ranked Luke Donald is on the same mark after a 69, but they all need something special just to get back in the hunt for the second of the season’s world championships.

Watson, poised to take over from Phil Mickelson as the leading left-hander in the game, responded to McIlroy’s burst by starting eagle-birdie.

After three-putting the fourth he birdied three of the next four and at that moment led Rose by five.

The former European Tour number one followed Watson in for a four at the long eighth, however, and with birdies on the next three as well and Watson three-putting again on the ninth they were level.

That was as good as it got for 31-year-old Rose, though. Watson had further birdies at the 12th and 14th while he bogeyed in between.

McIlroy told Sky Sports: “You should not be disappointed with a 65, but I feel it could have been a little better.

“I got off to a great start and was just trying to keep it going, but got a pretty bad lie in the bunker on the 14th and in the rough at 16.

“Yesterday I was ranked last in putting, but I holed them today and I will need to do it again tomorrow.

“I need to get off to another fast start and maybe keep it going a bit better. I will have to shoot in the low sixties.”

At least he was looking good to keep his number one spot on the rankings.

Donald probably needs at worst a top-three finish to have a chance of reclaiming the position, while third-ranked Lee Westwood, who has to win, is joint 23rd on five under after a real mixed bag of a 68.

He double-bogeyed the third and 17th, but also had eight birdies, seven of them in eight holes from the eighth.

Woods said: “I had it rolling and unfortunately made mistakes on eight and 12. Other than that it was a pretty good day.

“I thought I needed low sixties to have a chance going into tomorrow.”

A repeat of his Sunday 62 last week, though, would certainly make it interesting – and Watson’s second round had already shown that such a score was possible at the Blue Monster.

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