(Reuters) – Rory McIlroy made a deft par save at the final hole to earn a three-way tie for the lead with Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar on Saturday as the Genesis Open headed toward a Hollywood finish in Tinseltown.
Despite missing several excellent birdie opportunities, Northern Irishman McIlroy carded three-under-par 68 in magnificent winter sunshine at Riviera in Los Angeles.
Australian Scott sank a breaking 10-foot downhill birdie at the last for 67, while American halfway pacesetter Kuchar managed a 70.
The trio, with 39 official PGA Tour victories between them, will start Sunday’s final round at 10-under 203, with four others within two strokes on a tightly-bunched leaderboard.
Americans Russell Henley and Harold Varner III trail by one, while 2017 champion Dustin Johnson is two behind with Joel Dahmen.
Tournament host Tiger Woods, however, will have to wait another year for a chance of finally winning an event that has proved strangely elusive during his decorated career.
He shot 76 and fell 15 shots behind.
World number one McIlroy was not too hard on himself despite failing to convert most of his plentiful birdie opportunities, which he said more often than not were downhill putts that he had to be careful over.
“I gave myself a lot of chances. I didn’t make that many (because) I was on the wrong side of the hole all day, putting defensively,” he said, his mood helped by his delicate up-and-down from greenside rough at the last.
“For the most part I’ve just been managing my game well. When I’ve been missing greens I’ve been getting up and down.”
McIlroy has 17 official PGA Tour victories, while Scott has 13, a number that does not include his 2005 success at Riviera, which was deemed unofficial after rain shortened the tournament to 36 holes.
“I count it. I’ve got the trophy,” joked the 2013 Masters champion, who feels unusually comfortable on the Riviera greens.
“I’m generally comfortable. Everyone struggles on the greens here and it seems I do a little better than I normally do on the greens (at other courses).
“This is definitely my favorite course on the PGA Tour. It’s fun I keep getting back in late groups on the weekend.”
Kuchar, meanwhile, rued three bogeys in a four-hole stretch late that gave his many pursuers hope, though he bounced back with a birdie at the par-five 17th, where he judged perfectly a sharply-breaking 15-foot putt.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)