McGirt secures Riviera lead

William McGirt claimed a two-shot lead after the third round of the Northern Trust Open when he carded a six-under-par 65 on Saturday.

The unheralded American was two strokes off the pace when the second round was completed earlier in the day, but took advantage of some favourable pin positions to birdie five of his first six holes.

Although he picked up a pair of bogeys in his fine round, three more birdies in the first four holes after the turn saw him reach 12-under after 54 holes to claim a two-shot lead over George McNeill and Charlie Beljan.

“Played really solid, hit a lot of good iron shots and good putts,” the 34-year-old journeyman told reporters after his round.

“On the putting green, my stroke felt fast and I’ve been working hard trying to slow it down. Nothing felt good warming up, the putter didn’t feel good and the swing really didn’t feel good.

“I hit a lot of good shots and starting out, the hole looked like a washtub. All in all, it was pretty good all day.”

McNeill eagled the first hole en route to a 66, while Beljan carded a 68.
Another pair of American players – Brian Harman (68) and Jason Allred (67) – were another stroke further behind on nine under.

A group of seven players go into the final round on eight-under, including Masters champions Bubba Watson (64) and Charl Schwartzel (68), 2013 PGA Tour rookie of the year Jordan Spieth (67) and Dustin Johnson (69).

“This is what we strive to do, have a chance on Sunday,” Watson told reporters from the clubhouse after his bogey-free.

“I’m looking for the back nine tomorrow, having a chance.

“You don’t want to come to the back nine going, ‘Well, if I shoot 30, then I still don’t have a chance to win.’ I want that chance to win going into the back nine tomorrow.”