(Reuters) – Rory McIlroy celebrated his 30th birthday with a three-under-par 68 in the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship on Saturday to move within two shots of the leaders at the weather-hit event in Charlotte, North Carolina.
A bogey by Max Homa (70) at the last left him tied at the top on 11-under 202 alongside fellow Americans Jason Dufner (71) and Joel Dahmen (70), while Pat Perez carded a 66 to move up to 10 under.
McIlroy, who could have had an even better day had his putting been dialled in, put together four birdies against a bogey to move to nine under as fans offered up birthday greetings on the stormy day.
“It’s awesome. I’m really grateful,” McIlroy said of the greetings. “I really felt the love out there. Celebrate another decade of my life and I get to do it on one of my favorite golf courses in the world, it’s pretty cool.”
Homa, a former U.S. collegiate champion seeking his first PGA Tour victory, led most of the day until he stumbled at the par-four 18th hole.
England’s Justin Rose (68) is in sixth spot on eight-under with compatriot Paul Casey (66) tied for seventh a shot further back.
Defending champion Jason Day shot a three-over 74 to tumble to nine shots back.
McIlroy, who had an opening 66 before a poor finish on Friday left him five behind, collected three birdies on the back nine after missing several early putting opportunities.
He appeared ready for another birdie at the 12th when the horn sounded for the second weather delay.
When play resumed an hour later, the two-time Quail Hollow winner three-putted, slowing his momentum. But he rebounded with consecutive birdies on the 14th and 15th holes.
Homa held a three-stroke lead at one point but bogeys at the 11th and 18th spoiled what had been a bogey-free round.
“I’ve just been asking to have an opportunity like this to just see where my nerves are,” the 28-year-old said of his chances on Sunday.
Dahmen had a wild round.
He followed a double bogey at the third hole with a bogey at the fifth to go three over before an eagle and birdie got him back to even par.
Another bogey at the ninth preceded three birdies in five holes on the back nine. Then he bogeyed the 16th.
“I actually got nervous after I made double. I thought I was going to be a lot more nervous in those opening holes and I wasn’t,” said Dahmen, who has never won on the Tour.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)