SATURDAY IS TYPICALLY known as “Moving Day” on Tour, but owing to the idiosyncrasies of this week’s format, low-scoring has become less a valuable bonus than an absolute imperative.
As such, what minor alterations were made to the tournament leaderboard over the course of the third round fourballs came courtesy of minor deviations from the galloping forward momentum of the elite teams.
After drawing level with tournament leaders Australia during Friday’s foursomes, Ireland’s pairing of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy flexed their muscles with a 64 on Saturday to reach a aggregate total of 21-under-par and, in doing so, pull two shots clear of Germany, South Africa and the United States (Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland).
The tournament favourites rarely looked troubled over the course of the round and fell a shot shy of splitting their round evenly between birdies and pars, a feat made to look a touch pedestrian by the efforts of Germany and South Africa, both of whom carded 11-under-par rounds of 61 to vault into contention for the title.
When it comes to assessing the threat posed by their closest competitors, the form of South African representatives Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen is most likely to give McIlroy and McDowell pause. The only other major-winning duo in the field, the long-time friends have looked in imperious form since a muted performance in Thursday’s opening round.
McDowell and McIlroy will play tomorrow’s final round– a return to the more challenging alternate shot format– in the company of German duo Alex Cejka and Martin Kaymer.