AKRON, United States: Spain’s Sergio Garcia and British Open winner Rory McIlroy are once again battling for a title as they did last month at Royal Liverpool.
Garcia fired a three-under par 67 yesterday to hold a three-stroke lead over McIlroy after the third round of the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.
McIlroy won his third major title last month in England but not before Garcia threatened his lead on the back nine in the final round.
Garcia stands on 14-under 196 with McIlroy on 199 after firing a 66 and Australia’s Marc Leishman third on 201 after a 68 on Saturday.
“Obviously he’s been playing great, so it’s going to be tough tomorrow, but I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Garcia said.
“I feel very, very comfortable throughout the whole week, so hopefully I’ll be able to do the same thing just like (McIlroy) did to me in Hoylake. Hopefully keep him just behind me.”
England’s Justin Rose, Aussie Adam Scott and American Keegan Bradley -- all major winners -- were another stroke adrift.
Defending champion Tiger Woods carded a two-over 72 to fall into a tie for 36th place.
Garcia, still seeking his first major title, birdied three of the first six holes Saturday in the last tuneup for next week’s PGA Championship, the final major tournament of the year.
Garcia added a birdie at 11 after dropping his approach two feet from the cup but took his lone bogey of the day at 14 after finding the rough on his approach.
McIlroy also fired three birdies on the front side but found a bunker at the par-3 12th and took a bogey.
He responded by closing with back-to-back birdies to trim Garcia’s margin entering the final round. After his bogey at 14, Garcia had a five shot lead over McIlroy and Leishman and he had parred the 15th when play thunderstorms stopped play for more than three hours.
When play resumed, McIlroy and Leishman each birdied the 17th, and McIlroy also rolled in a 34-footer at 18 to get within three.
Garcia parred his final three holes after the delay.
“I just unfortunately misread a couple putts here and there, and then I hit a couple not so good putts,” Garcia said. “The restart was a little tougher.
“I didn’t play my best there, but I managed to keep it together. I made three good pars to finish with and tomorrow will be another day.”
McIlroy was delighted to be in contention in his first start since his Open triumph.
Meanwhile, Woods withdrew from the championship casting serious doubt on his status for the upcoming PGA Championship.
The final major championship of the year tees off in four days at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, and Woods was hopeful it might signal a return to form as the 14-time major champion chases the career record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.
Woods, 38, underwent back surgery on March 31 to relieve pressure on a pinched nerve and this was only this third event since the operation.
He missed the cut at the PGA event he hosts in Washington in late June and finished level 69th at the British Open last month, his worst showing in a major as a professional.
At the time Woods withdrew, he was three-over par for the final round at Firestone Country Club -- where he has won eight times before -- and stood four-over for the tournament.