Rory McIlroy can give himself a belated 30th birthday present by capturing his third win at Quail Hollow and his 16th PGA Tour victory in the Wells Fargo Championship today.
But while the Holywood star is lurking ominously in fifth place, just two strokes behind leading trop Jason Dufner, Max Homa and Joel Dahmen on nine-under par, West Waterford’s Seamus Power is still in with a chance of his maiden win in his adopted home town.
The pride of Tooraneena (32) is tie for seventh on seven-under after a third round 69 and only four shots off the lead as he chases his third fat cheque in a row and a host of benefits, including a two-year exemption and starts in all the majors this year and next year’s Masters.
Ranked 117th in the FedExCup standings, Power is projected to move to 97th but should he finish second on his own, he would move inside the top 70 in the PGA Championship Points List and secure his place in the second major of the season at Bethpage State Park in two weeks.
The PGA of America uses the PGA Championship Points List — a special money list that began after the Players last year and runs until this week’s Wells Fargo — to fill the field and even go outside the top 70 to extend special invitations.
Right now, 17 of the top 70 on the special money list are not yet exempt for the PGA Championship — Patrick Cantlay (19th), Billy Horschel (22nd), Kyle Stanley (35th) and Jason Kokrak (43rd). After automatic qualifiers fill the field, the PGA of America will use the ranking to extend special invitations to some outside the top 70 in order of placement.
Power is currently 123rd with 871,941 points and while he needs another $750,537 to move into the top 70, which means solo second at Quail Hollow, he’s certainly playing well enough to finish with a flourish.
Ranked seventh for strokes gained from the tee, 11th for driving distance and tied third for scrambling with 20 successful attempts out of 24, he has the game to make another major move towards keeping his PGA Tour card when he partners Paul Casey in today’s final round.
Homa and Dahmen shot 70’s and Dufner a 71 to lead by a shot on 11-under from Pat Perez, who shot a 66 to sit alone in fourth on 10-under with McIlroy’s three-under 68 leaving him fifth on eight-under after two weather delays in Charlotte.
The Holywood star believes patience will be key again this week and he was pleased to overcome the usual problems of a stop-start day.
“Yeah, right there,” said McIlroy, who won his maiden PGA Tour title at Quail Hollow in 2010 before winning again in 2015. “Depending on what the guys do on the last hole there, I'm three closer to the lead than I was starting off today, so that's a good thing. Just sort of hung around all day.
“Coming back after that second delay, three-putting 12, I was a little bit angry at myself, sort of saying to myself on the 13th tee, ‘Why didn't I hit balls instead of just going to the putting green?’
“Yeah, I birdied 14 and 15 after that, played the last three holes well, which you need to do. Didn't lose any shots there. As you said, right there going into tomorrow, so I'm excited for that.
“The first delay actually did me well. I was sort of stuck in neutral there on the front nine and came back with a nice birdie on 10, so that was nice. The second delay was the one that sort of got me a little bit. But it's the same for everyone, we just have to deal with it the best we can.”
McIlroy looks back to his win at Sawgrass as a good indicator of the mentality required to complete the job today.
“I mean, I probably just go back to THE PLAYERS in March, I got off to two really bad starts on Saturday and Sunday<‘ he said. “You know, I was two-over through two on Saturday, two-over through four on Sunday and again told myself right in the thick of the tournament but you have to stay patient and almost let it come to you rather than try to chase it. That was on that golf course.
“I think it's similar here. As I said, you have to pick your spots to be aggressive and make your birdies, the par 5s, the two short par 4s. If you can do that and pick those off and you don't make many mistakes, you know, 68 or 67's always going to do you pretty well around here.”
As for his 30th birthday yesterday, he said he got “a lot” of congratulations from the gallery
“I'm really grateful. I really, I felt the love out there. Celebrate another decade of my life and I get to do it on one of my favourite golf courses in the world, it's pretty cool.”
World number two Justin Rose, who shot a 68 alongside Power yesterday, is alone is sixth on eight-under.