Third-ranked Jon Rahm seized the lead of the Farmers Insurance Open on Saturday while Rory McIlroy chased the world number one spot and Tiger Woods charged into contention for a record-setting 83rd career US PGA title.
Woods, who has eight career triumphs at Torrey Pines, fired a 69 to stand five behind Rahm entering Sunday’s final round at the seaside San Diego layout.
“I’m going to have to shoot a pretty good round,” Woods said. “I’ll have my work cut out for me. I’ll have go out there and post a number and hopefully it will be good enough.”
Rahm made five birdies and an eagle to shoot a bogey-free seven-under par 65 and stand on 12-under 204 after 54 holes at Torrey Pines with American Ryan Palmer one shot back after a 71.
“I was really focused. To stay bogey free at Torrey Pines is a really good round,” said Rahm, who made all 15 of his putts from 10 feet or less. “I hit a lot of really good putts.”
Second-ranked McIlroy, needing a victory to return to world number one for the first time since 2015, fired a 67 to join a third-place pack on 207 with South Korean Kang Sung and Americans Harry Higgs and Cameron Champ.
“I hit the ball well off the tee. I gave myself plenty of chances,” said McIlroy. “If you can pack your patience around this place, just hang around, you should be OK. No one is going to go out here and shoot the lights out. If you keep putting it on the green and give yourself chances, you’re going to do well out here.”
That’s what 15-major winner Woods hopes as the 44-year-old reigning Masters champion tries to move past the all-time record 82 US PGA wins he shares with Sam Snead.
Woods sank a 13-foot birdie putt on the same first hole where Friday he four-putted to a double bogey, then curled in a seven-foot birdie putt on the par-3 third and chipped in from 17 feet to rescue par at the fourth.
Woods birdied the par-5 sixth and ninth to pull within two of the lead.
“Most of my putts I made were all uphill,” Woods said. “It’s important to leave the ball in the correct spots, and when I did I poured them in there.”
Woods made bogey at the par-3 11th then grinded out seven concluding pars, the most crucial on a 15-foot putt – his longest putt of the day – at the par-5 18th.
“It was important to make that putt to salvage the round a little bit and get some momentum going for the round [on Sunday],” Woods said.
McIlroy, Rahm shine
McIlroy sank a 19-foot birdie putt at the par-3 third, took his lone bogey at four, then birdied the par-5 sixth and ninth holes.
On the back nine, McIlroy birdied the par-4 12th and 15th and par-5 18th – the exact same trio of holes where he made bogeys on Friday.
As much as McIlroy wants to reclaim the world number one spot for the first time since 2015, the four-time major winner from Northern Ireland wants to capture a title missing from his collection.
“I’d love to (be number one, but first) I want to win a golf tournament,” McIlroy said. “I’ve never won here before. That’s my goal here tomorrow – let’s go win a new event.”
Rahm, who won his first US PGA title at Torrey Pines in 2017, began with a birdie then holed out from 111 yards to eagle the second and followed with birdies at the par-5 sixth, ninth and 13th holes. His approach at the par-3 13th landed three feet from the cup to set up a final birdie.
“Hopefully I can hit it good off the tee like I did here today and tighten my iron game,” Rahm said. “Hoping I can give myself easier chances to make birdies instead of pars.”
It’s only the second 54-hole US PGA edge for Rahm, who faded to a share of 12th after leading to start the final round of the 2019 Players tournament.