(Reuters) – Rory McIlroy earned a one-stroke lead over Louis Oosthuizen as the cream rose to the top in the third round at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai on Saturday.
McIlroy put on a driving clinic for most of the day, his accuracy and prodigious length off the tee an impressive sight at Sheshan International.
The Northern Irishman carded a bogey-free five-under-par 67 that could have been considerably better had his putter been hotter, but his performance nevertheless was enough to move within striking distance of his fourth victory of the year.
A precise wedge for a tap-in birdie at the par-five 18th allowed McIlroy to inch ahead of Oosthuizen at 15-under 201.
South African Oosthuizen threw down the gauntlet with birdies at the first five holes en route to a 65, the day’s best score in ideal conditions.
And American defending champion Xander Schauffele made his presence felt, birdies at the final three holes lifting him within two shots of the lead.
Halfway leader Matthew Fitzpatrick was also two behind after battling to a 70.
Home favorite Li Haotong gave his large gallery plenty to cheer about early with five birdies in the first six holes in a bold quest to challenge for the first Chinese victory at a World Golf Championships event.
But the party did not last as he came undone with an error-strewn stretch that included triple-bogey at the par-four 13th, where he knifed a bunker shot over the green into a hazard.
He shot 74 and fell nine shots behind.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Tokyo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)