Defending South Carolina champ Rory McIlroy ahead as he chases top ranking

Rory McIlroy was just one round away from becoming world number one for the ninth time as the defending champion sat atop the CJ Cup leaderboard.

The 33-year-old was ahead by one stroke at the Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina after eagling twice, and carding trios of birdies and bogeys, en route to a second straight 67.

The Northern Irishman ended the third round at 13 under, with 2021 US Open champion Jon Rahm of Spain, American Kurt Kitayama and South Korea’s KH Lee all trailing a shot behind.

Rory McIlroy can return to the top of the rankings for the first time since July 2020 by winning his 23rd PGA Tour event at the tournament which has been moved from Las Vegas.

“Ultimately, I just want to win this golf tournament. If I win the golf tournament, then everything will take care of itself,” McIlroy said after finishing play.

“So for me, tomorrow I need to go out there, set myself a score that I want to shoot, try to do that.

“Focusing on that, hope that that ends up with a couple of things, a trophy and getting back to the top of the world rankings.”

Tommy Fleetwood of England shot a second straight 66 to be eight under, with his compatriot Tyrrell Hatton and Irishman Shane Lowry another stroke behind followed by reigning US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick at six under.

Sheffield’s Danny Willett and Munster man Seamus Power rounded out the British and Irish contingent at three under.

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