WASHINGTON – Americans Jason Dufner, Joel Dahmen and Max Homa shared the lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA Wells Fargo Championship with Rory McIlroy lurking two shots adrift.
Homa and Dahmen each fired one-under-par 70, while Dufner shot 71 to share the lead at 11-under 202 after 54 holes at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina.
American Pat Perez fired a 66 to grab fourth on 203, with four-time major winner McIlroy in fifth on 204 after a 68 on a course where he has won twice and set a course record of 62, then broke it with a 61.
“I’ve played some great golf on this back nine, and hopefully I can do it again,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy played on his 30th birthday, receiving a cake in the clubhouse and a “Happy Birthday” song from spectators at the first tee, the first of many that would serenade him throughout the round.
McIlroy won his first US PGA title at Quail Hollow in 2010, recalling it came days before his 21st birthday, so in America he was underage and not served alcohol, celebrating with apple juice instead of something bubblier.
“At least I can have champagne in my flute,” McIlroy said of his 30th birthday plans.
England’s Justin Rose was sixth on 205 after a 68, while Englishman Paul Casey fired a 66 to stand on 206 with Ireland’s Seamus Power, who shot 69.
Two afternoon rain delays halted play for a total of two hours and 17 minutes, pushing players to the limit to complete their rounds before darkness.
Homa sank a 14-foot birdie at the par-4 second and a five-footer at the par-4 eighth, then began the back nine with another birdie putt from seven feet.
But Homa missed his chance for the lead alone with bogeys at 11 and 18, each time needing three shots to reach the green, then missing par putts from six feet at 11 and nine feet on 18.
“I’ve always been comfortable when I’ve been playing well. I’ve just had struggling confidence getting into tournaments.
“But I’m having fun out there right now. You can’t win it today. I just have to focus on playing good, solid golf.”
Dufner, the 2013 PGA Championship winner who has slumped to 230th in the world rankings, matched his career low with a 63 on Friday to lead, but struggled on Saturday.
Dufner stumbled back with bogeys on 11 and 12 after missing each fairway, but answered with birdies at the 14th and par-5 15th, blasting from greenside rough and a bunker within two feet of the cup on each to hang onto a share of the lead.
McIlroy birdied the par-5 seventh, 10th and 15th holes, catching fire late after an unspectacular eight pars on the front nine.
“I played really well that front nine. I didn’t get a whole lot out of it,” McIlroy said. “To make a birdie right away on 10 was great.”