Conners grinds to PGA lead as Rose charges at rainy Oak Hill

·4-min read
Canadian Corey Conners seized the lead at the turn in the third round of the PGA Championship
Canadian Corey Conners seized the lead at the turn in the third round of the PGA Championship

Corey Conners grinded out a birdie and eight pars to seize the lead in soggy conditions during Saturday's third round of the PGA Championship as heavy rain drenched Oak Hill.

The 31-year-old Canadian, trying to join 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir as his homeland's only men's major champions, stood on six-under at the turn to lead Justin Rose and Viktor Hovland by two strokes.

Conners made his first birdie in 15 holes at eight after landing his approach within four feet of the hole to double his lead.

A day-long deluge made thick rough even tougher to escape and the ball was rolling less for those fortunate enough to find the fairway.

Hot air blowers and squeegees were used to keep greens and fairways playable.

In his slog across the water-logged layout, Conners saved pars with putts of nine feet at the first hole and six feet at the par-3 fifth.

Conners, ranked 29th, won last month's PGA Tour Texas Open and had his best major finish, a share of sixth, at last year's Masters.

The best charge was being made by Rose, the 2013 US Open champion who could become the first Englishman to win the PGA Championship since Jim Barnes in 1916 and 1919.

Rose answered a bogey at two with birdie putts from just inside six feet at the par-5 fourth, 18 feet at seven, 34 feet at eight and just beyond 20 feet to reach four-under.

Also one off the lead was Norway's 11th-ranked Viktor Hovland, who shared the 36-hole lead with Conners and second-ranked Scottie Scheffler.

Hovland bounced back from back-to-back bogeys at the par-5 fourth and par-3 fifth with a birdie putt at the eighth from just inside 12 feet.

Hovland, who led after a round for a third consecutive major, had his best major finish, fourth, in last year's British Open.

Scheffler, last year's Masters champion, began bogey-bogey and made two more and six and seven to fall five adrift.

Scheffler, who would overtake Jon Rahm atop the world rankings with a victory, could become the first man to win the PGA and Players Championship in the same year since Hal Sutton in 1983.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy was five off the pace at one-under on a roller-coaster day after birdie putts from just over five feet at the par-3 third and fifth.

He fell back with bogeys at six -- where he was in greenside rough -- and eight and nine, where he missed par putts of eight and six feet respectively. McIlroy bounced back with birdies at 12 and the par-5 13th, dropping approaches within five feet of the hole.

The world number three from Northern Ireland seeks his first major title since 2014.

- Boos for Bryson, Brooks -

Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, two US stars who jumped from the PGA Tour to the Saudi-financed LIV Golf League, were loudly booed when they went off together at the first tee.

They are the only players to shoot 66, the low score of the week.

DeChambeau stumbled to two-under, four off the pace, with a double bogey at the sixth.

Koepka made a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-5 fourth and a 13-footer at the par-3 fifth, but a bogey at the seventh left him three adrift.

Trailing hopefuls who teed off early spent hours getting soaked while trudging through a wet mess.

Rahm, last month's Masters winner, fired a 72 to join Jordan Spieth on six-over 216.

"I feel like the first hour and a half where you're hoping it stops and you don't know what's going to happen might be the most difficult," Rahm said. "After that, you can adjust a little bit."

Three-time major winner Spieth, who hoped to complete a career Grand Slam with a victory, fired a 71, his low round this week.

"It's just really difficult to keep everything dry," Spieth said. "It starts with a grip and if you get water on the ball or the driver face the ball can really go anywhere."

American Lee Hodges, who saw his 15-foot par putt hang on the edge of the hole before dropping in, was given a one-stroke penalty for waiting longer than the 10-second limit to play a ball in that situation.