Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion, made four birdies in six holes to seize a six-stroke lead after Sunday’s completion of the third round of the PGA’s Tour Championship.
Lightning halted play Saturday with 14 golfers still on the course at East Lake in Atlanta, adding to the last-day drama at the season-ending FedEx Cup playoff showdown.
Scheffler made brilliant approaches to set up his sizzling effort Sunday morning to complete a four-under par 66 and stand on 23-under par.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland made two closing birdies Sunday to shoot 63 and match Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele for second on 17-under.
McIlroy put himself in the final duo on Sunday at the Tour Championship for a record fourth time while Schauffele shot 70 to fall back.
“Shooting even par out here is never going to get it done,” Schauffele said. “I just need to put my head down.”
When play resumed, Scheffler led on 19-under par through 12 holes with playing partner and fellow American Schauffele on 18-under.
Scheffler dropped his approach at 13 five feet from the cup and made his birdie putt to boost his lead to two strokes and Schauffele followed with a bogey at 14 after finding the right rough.
At the par-3 15th, Scheffler landed his tee shot inside five feet and made the birdie putt, reaching 21-under to lead by four.
At 17, Scheffler dropped his approach just inside three feet and tapped in for birdie, lifting his lead to five.
Schauffele was in the left rough at the par-5 18th and struggled to make par while Scheffler pitched his third shot inches from the hole and tapped in for another birdie.
“He fights until the end. He doesn’t give up on any shot,” Schauffele said of Scheffler. “He’s the number one player in the world for good reason.”
McIlroy sank a 13-foot birdie putt at the 17th and a three-footer to birdie the par-5 18th to finish a 63, his best ever at East Lake.
“Coming out this morning, I ideally wanted to just finish 3-4 which is what I did,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy hopes to add to his Tour Championship titles from 2016 and 2019.
“Great way to finish the round,” he said. “Gets me a little closer. At least gives me a chance going into this afternoon so I’m excited for that.”
South Korean Im Sung-jae made four morning pars to share fourth on 16-under with defending champion Patrick Cantlay.
Scheffler began the tournament at 10-under with a two-stroke edge on the field under a staggered scoring system based on season point totals, but Schauffele had trimmed that edge to two strokes after 36 holes.
The format means whoever fires the week’s low 72-hole total will not necessarily win the $18 million top prize on offer.
Scheffler, who hadn’t taken a PGA title when the year began, won four in two months capped by his first major title at Augusta National in April.