McIlroy leads at weather-hit Irish Open

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy made the cut at the Irish Open for the first time in four years

Rory McIlroy leads Masters champion Danny Willett by three shots after ending a weather-interrupted day three of the Irish Open on nine under par.

Both players had completed 15 holes of their third rounds at the K Club when the action was halted at 20:30 BST because of poor light and conditions.

Play had been suspended twice earlier in the day because of a risk of lightning and thunderstorms.

McIlroy is chasing his first Irish Open win and a first victory of the season.

The world number three has secured six top-10 finishes so far this season, but is now in pole position for the £515,000 first prize at his home tournament, which is supported by his charity, The Rory Foundation.

Trailing by one after day two, the Northern Irishman found himself at the head of the field after holing for a birdie at the fourth, as overnight leaders Willett and Marc Warren both faltered.

Four-time major winner McIlroy led Willett by two shots when proceedings were delayed for the first time at 15:25 BST, and extended his advantage on the resumption of play almost two and a half hours later, picking up a shot at the 10th.


Danny Willett and the other later starters faced testing conditions for their third rounds on Saturday

The third round was suspended again after just 40 minutes of play at 18:25, before re-commencing at 19:55 for a final 35 minutes out on the course.

McIlroy ended the day as the only player in the field without a bogey on his card, with nearest challenger Willett dropping three shots in his 15 holes, while registering a solitary birdie at the fourth.

Scotland’s Russell Knox is the clubhouse leader on five under after shooting a two-under 70, with South African Richard Sterne also five under after 14 holes.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton is still well in the running on four under after 16, while French pair Gregory Bourdy and Romain Wattel moved into contention on three under by firing 68s, the best rounds of the day.

Warren was left to rue an error-ridden start to his third round as he bogeyed six of his first 10 holes, before recording a birdie at the 12th to end his day three under after 15.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson, the 2012 champion at Royal Portrush, is another of the group who lie six shots off the lead, while a round of 70 sees Lee Westwood occupy joint 14th place on two under.

Martin Kaymer’s hopes of challenging for the title appear over as the German Ryder Cup player is one over, with Northern Ireland duo Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell two over and three over respectively.

Twelve players will complete their third rounds when play resumes at 07:30 BST on Sunday, before the commencement of the final round.

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