“I can take a lot from this. It’s taken me a few weeks to get to this point but I feel like I’m playing some of the best golf of my life right now and I just need to keep going with it and keep doing the same things.”
On his tournament debut, England’s Eddie Pepperell shared third place with Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas on 14 under, both players holing improbable birdie putts on the 17th in matching rounds of 66.
“I actually thought it was going to miss low until right at the end and I was pretty excited,” Pepperell said. “I said to Mick (Doran, his caddie), that may be the highlight of my career – I hope I don’t peak too early.
“Honestly I felt like I swung the club terrible today. I kept hitting it right with my 3-wood, which is the club I bank on and I was useless with that.
“My irons I was hitting pretty well and the last six holes around the greens I was on fire – I felt like Seve (Ballesteros) out there to be fair.”
Compatriot Tommy Fleetwood, who began the day in joint second with McIlroy, gave himself an outside chance of forcing a play-off with his Ryder Cup team-mate with an eagle on the 16th, only to promptly hit his tee shot on the 17th into the water.