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Sunday, 15 August 2010
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

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Rory McIlroy was closer than ever to a first Major title as the US PGA Championship made up for lost time on Saturday, and he was not the only European Tour Member in the hunt.

Following long fog delays on the first two days it was all systems go at Whistling Straits - and, thanks to a five under par 67, 21 year old McIlroy was in joint second place with American Dustin Johnson with 18 holes left of the final Major of the season.

He was also, however, three behind another of the home contingent Nick Watney, who despite a closing bogey shot 66 for 13 under and remained the likeliest of the trio to become the sixth first-time winner in the last seven Majors.

McIlroy, five under at halfway, birdied three of his first five holes and after a slip on the eighth picked up the pace again on the back nine.

Further birdies came at the tenth, 13th and long 16th, the last of them lifting him out of a group containing German Martin Kaymer, Australian Jason Day and China's Liang Wen-chong, who set a new course record with a sparkling 64.

“I'm very excited,” said Kaymer. “There's a lot going on tomorrow, with The Ryder Cup as well - that's obviously important that I secure my spot there. 

“But my goal now is to finish in the top five, top three - that would be great. If I'm playing exceptionally well tomorrow for the first time that I'm in the lead maybe or close, then of course I want to win, but top three, top five - that would be awesome.”

McIlroy also revealed he was considering a conservative approach.

"I'm not going to be over-aggressive and stupid, but you are going to have to give yourself plenty of chances," said McIlroy, third in the event last year and at The Open Championship last month.

"I feel as if I've got to shoot something in the mid-60s, but you never know.

"You could go out and shoot a great score and Nick plays well and that's it."

Watney, who needs a top-four finish to have a chance of a Ryder Cup debut at The Celtic Manor Resort in October, took charge with five birdies in his first seven holes as halfway pacesetter Matt Kuchar faltered.

He also bogeyed the eighth, but had three inward birdies before coming unstuck at the 500 yard last - a hole England's Simon Dyson (joint 14th after a 68) described as "probably the hardest finishing hole I've played in my life".

The 29 year old was seventh in the Masters Tournament and at St Andrews - and it took Phil Mickelson to deny him a World Golf Championship title last season.

The day's play began with the completion of the second round - and the story of the morning had centred on Padraig Harrington, who was distracted by a photographer as he hit his second shot into the hazard short of the 18th green and double-bogeyed to miss the cut by one.

Watney said: "The key was definitely my wedges and putting. I was spot on with those.

"I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. It's going to be a great challenge and I'm very excited.

"I can only control what I do. It's going to be a long day. It's going to be a tough day.

"I wish I could putt like I did today consistently, but I think it's more about just trusting it as opposed to anything physical.

"There's some really good players that haven't won a Major. And all the guys that have, at one point they hadn't won either, so you got to start somewhere and hopefully tomorrow will be my day."

Liang needed only 23 putts in an incredible round that propelled him 36 places up the leaderboard.

“After I made the cut yesterday so I feel much more relaxed today also and was able to play on the back nine from the tenth hole and it started well,” he said.

“So that started building the confidence. And also today the driving, also putting and all very well and so it makes the whole round very good.”

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