McIl­roy gains on John­son

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - SCREEN CHECK - Steve DiMeglio @steve_dimeglio USA TO­DAY Sports

AT­LANTA Rory McIl­roy kept his eye on the leader­boards scat­tered around East Lake Golf Club dur­ing Satur­day’s third round of The Tour Cham­pi­onship. He liked what he saw. First, his own score had him feel­ing good as he me­thod­i­cally took apart de­mand­ing East Lake with a bo­gey-free, 4-un­der-par 66 to move closer to win­ning his first Tour Cham­pi­onship. Sec­ond, he saw the game’s best player at the mo­ment, Dustin John­son, come back to the field af­ter threat­en­ing to run away with the ti­tle and, with that, the $10 mil­lion jack­pot bonus and the FedExCup.

McIl­roy, who at one time trailed by five shots, is at 6 un­der through 54 holes and two shots in back of Kevin Chap­pell (68) and John­son (69). John­son made three birdies in his fi­nal seven holes but also carded two bo­geys and a dou­ble-bo­gey 6 on the penul­ti­mate hole dur­ing that time. McIl­roy is tied in third with Ryan Moore (66). Hideki Mat­suyama (68) is an­other stroke back in fifth at 5 un­der.

“This week it’s all about you lim­it­ing your mis­takes. I didn’t do that the first two days, but I did that to­day,” said McIl­roy, who needs to win The Tour Cham­pi­onship and have John­son fin­ish tied for sec­ond or worse to claim the FedExCup and the $10 mil­lion.

“I didn’t have a bo­gey,” McIl­roy added. “You don’t need to make many birdies here to feel like you’re work­ing your way through the field. Four birdies, no bo­geys, that’s go­ing to work around here.

“It gets me closer to what I need to do. I need to go out and play a very sim­i­lar, if not bet­ter, round of golf to­mor­row to have a chance. I think, first and fore­most, I just need to try and win this golf tour­na­ment, and what­ever hap­pens af­ter that hap­pens. It would just be great to try to win The Tour Cham­pi­onship, and if the chips fall my way, then so be it.”

McIl­roy spent an hour on the range with swing coach Michael Ban­non af­ter his sec­ond round de­spite the heat and humidity. He said he was a lit­tle out of sync with his upper and lower body.

“That range ses­sion def­i­nitely helped last night. It showed to­day,” McIl­roy said. “I hit 17 of 18 greens and didn’t make many mis­takes. So much bet­ter golf swing to­day, and I think that ob­vi­ously is re­lated to what I did last night on the range.

“I feel good. I feel like I can go out there to­mor­row and shoot some­thing even lower than I have to­day, and hope­fully that will give me a chance.”

The DJ train that is John­son was rolling right along in the ATL be­fore he started losing shots to the right on the back nine. John­son, who won his third ti­tle of the sea­son two weeks ago in the BMW Cham­pi­onship, the third of four play­off events, still man­aged to break par. It was his eighth con­sec­u­tive round un­der par. He knows he can win both The Tour Cham­pi­onship and FedExCup.

“I thought I played pretty well, just a cou­ple of loose drives on the back side and made a cou­ple bo­geys and that dou­ble on 17. Other than that, I thought the round was pretty solid,” John­son said. “I felt like I hit good putts. They just didn’t go in.

“I like my po­si­tion. I feel like I’m play­ing re­ally well. So I need to go out to­mor­row and do the same thing I did to­day, just get off to a good start and hope­fully try to fin­ish off a lit­tle bet­ter. I’ve got a lot of con­fi­dence go­ing into to­mor­row, and I know I can get it done out here. I’ve won quite a few times out here. So that def­i­nitely helps.”

Chap­pell has made just one bo­gey this week in his search for his first PGA Tour ti­tle. He was strug­gling with his swing but turned things around with a chip-in birdie on the 12th.

“Com­ing close so many times this year and not get­ting a win yet,, it fu­els me,” he said.

BRETT DAVIS, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

“I need to go out and play a very sim­i­lar, if not bet­ter, round of golf to­mor­row to have a chance,” Rory McIl­roy says.

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