Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry are well positioned to enter the final round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
The Irish duo made the rounds flawless, and McIlroy climbed a glittering run of 65 to climb to 11 under, one stroke behind leaders Victor Hovland and Soren Kielsen.
Lowry, playing in the final set, scored 68 to hit 10 under par, and tied for sixth on the leaderboard piled with heavy hitters.
The main event of the DP World Tour resumed on Saturday morning, with play suspended on Friday after the death of Queen Elizabeth II was announced on Thursday evening, and as a result the tournament was reduced to 54 holes.
Asked afterwards what it would mean to win under the circumstances, McIlroy said: “I think growing up in Northern Ireland, the royal family was part of our culture, and you’d considered the Queen to be the Queen.
“You don’t realize that there will be kings and queens after that. He was a constant figure for the entire country.
“I was so lucky, I met her a few years ago and she couldn’t have been kinder. I have a picture of that in my house along with my MBE, and I’m very proud of him too.
“I thought it was the right decision for us to go on. I don’t think we disrespect anyone by playing and celebrating the life the Queen has lived.
“I’ve won 10% of the tournaments I’ve been in as a professional, so every win is a big win.
“But with everything that is going on around our game and everything that has happened over the past couple of days, it will definitely be there as one of the most memorable games.”
Eagle ignited his fourth hole fivefold, firing a fine approach from nine feet off the right bristle and then draining the knockout punch. A bird followed him at the eighth hole – the site of his only stroke that fell on Thursday – when he made it to the turn at 33.
Consecutive sparrows reached on day eleven and then twelfth place thereafter with fifteen equals to raise McIlroy to nine rarer for the championship.
The four-time main winner flirted with a catastrophic fourteenth-place finish as his drive ran past the off-limits area to the left, disappearing into the trees for five seconds before returning to the driveway. Partially blocked by trees, he expertly tied his approach a short distance from the green, getting up and down looking for his bird from there.
McIlroy had the chance to land the second Eagle in 18th, but his short court from the sidelines whistled and tapped for Birds and 65, leaving him at 11 under, in a tie for third alongside Thomas Detre and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Beginning on day six under, Lowry played a second consecutive stealth-free run, featuring consistently beautiful batting, but he endured a frustrating afternoon on the greens, seeing several chances of the birds slipping.
The 2019 Open Champion – a relentlessly strong player around the western track at Wentworth – dumped an early birdie 14 feet into a hole by three seconds but then hits failed to land, and his subsequent three hits came over flicks on equal fives.
Lowry’s long game was almost perfect, although he got himself into some rare trouble from a tee in the third, having to play at 77 feet. However, he clipped his wedge approach in two feet, stroking it on an equal footing.
He made his way to twelfth of fifteen, coming inside an eagle’s mustache, flinching as the ball stalled over the cup. More chances slipped through to a smooth finish, as Laurie Byrdie finished off two closed-backs to leave himself two strokes of the headliner heading into Sunday.
Kielsen had set the early goal thanks to a superb 64, as the 47-year-old Dane threw a shot on the first but responded with an eagle and seven birds.
Hovland, who added 68 to the opening 64, won his second DP World Tour title in Dubai in January and would like to win one of the biggest events on the track, especially with the Ryder Cup qualifiers starting this week.
“I played here in 2019 shortly after turning professional and I was a bit surprised about the experience,” the world number 10 said.
“I’ve watched a lot of European Tour action, but it was a little different when I first showed up here with a lot of people and watched the golf course for the first time after seeing it a bit on TV.
“It was a great experience the first time and I didn’t play as well as I would have liked last year, but I have a chance to win tomorrow. That would be great.”
Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia Suddenly withdraw from the tournament After the first round, the former indicated a back injury, and the latter offered no explanation.
With additional reports from the Palestinian Authority