Xander Schauffele fought hard to retain a narrow lead at the Travelers Championship, as Rory McIlroy tumbled out of contention.
Schauffele was the standout player for the first two days at TPC River Highlands, but he did not have the brilliance of the first 36 holes on Saturday.
He went into the third day with a five-shot lead, but his playing partner on Saturday, Patrick Cantlay ate into the advantage to set up a shootout on Sunday.
Schauffele went bogey-free for the opening two rounds and extended that to 48 holes, but after finding water on the 13th he finally gave a hole back to the course.
With Cantlay gobbling up six birdies in the first 15 holes, Schauffele was pegged back but he answered the call with a stunning birdie on 16.
The pair traded brilliant birdies on 17, and a 67 for Schauffele was enough for a one-stroke lead at 17-under over Cantlay who had the low round of the day – a 63.
The Travelers was the culmination of a busy month of action for McIlroy, and he appeared to run out of steam on moving day.
McIlroy was looking for a fast start, but a birdie putt on the first shaved the hole and he found trouble on the second. His drive hit a tree close to the tee and flew straight right into the fescue, and required two hacks to move the ball forward. His fourth shot was a stunner, but he was unable to make the putt and it resulted in a double bogey.
After a bogey on five, he rebounded with a run of three birdies to threaten a charge into contention. But further bogeys sent him back to six-under for the championship.
McIlroy will have another 18 holes before taking a couple of weeks out to recharge ahead of the Open in July.
Sahith Theegala surged into contention at 14-under following an excellent round of 64. Should the big guns fire blanks, he is the man in position to pounce.
Kevin Kisner carded a 66 on moving day to sit at 13-under, one shot in front of Scotland’s Martin Laird who also posted a 66.
Scottie Scheffler is probably too far back, but a round of 65 catapulted him up to 10-under. The world No.1’s aim for Sunday will be a fast start and catch the eye of the leaders. Pressure can do strange things.
Tony Finau carded his best round of the week, 65, to climb up to nine-under.
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