Schauffele clings to PGA lead as Lowry makes epic charge

Xander Schauffele of The United States plays his tee shot on the 11th hole during the third round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 18, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. AFP

Xander Schauffele clung to a one-stroke lead at the turn in Saturday’s third round of the 106th PGA Championship while Shane Lowry made an epic charge and Scottie Scheffler faded a day after his arrest.

Third-ranked Schauffele sank a birdie putt from just inside four feet at the par-5 seventh hole — his first birdie in 15 holes — to seize the lead alone at 13-under, one stroke better than Lowry and fellow American Collin Morikawa after nine holes.

Lowry, the 2019 British Open winner, birdied eight of the first 14 holes at Valhalla to reach 12-under and briefly share the lead, sinking birdie putts of 37 feet at 13 and 32 feet at the par-3 14th after birdies on six of the first nine holes — four of those between 13 and 19 feet.

The 37-year-old Irishman was threatening the all-time major low round of 62, fired most recently on Thursday by Schauffele.

Tokyo Olympic champion Schauffele, seeking his first major title, has not won any event since the 2022 Scottish Open, having had 19 top-10 PGA Tour finishes in the nearly two years since.

Morikawa missed a par putt from just outside four feet to bogey the second but answered with a 30-foot chip-in birdie at the par-3 third and sank a birdie putt from just inside 14 feet to stay on Schauffele’s heels.

Sharing fourth on 11-under were England’s 43-year-old Justin Rose and South African Dean Burmester.

Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, birdied five of the first seven holes and answered a bogey at nine with birdies at 13 and 15 to keep near the top.

The contender who faded worst, however, was Scheffler, who was handcuffed and arrested Friday morning after jumping a curb to avoid stopped traffic at the course entrance, but was released from jail in time to shoot a five-under par 66 and climb within three of the lead.

Scheffler, 27, won his second Masters title last month and hopes to be the first player since 2015 to win the first two majors in a calendar year.

A pedestrian was killed in the accident that caused the traffic jam outside Valhalla.

Scheffler was arrested by police on charges of felony assault of a police officer, criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding signals from an officer directing traffic.

Scheffler has won four of his past five starts but enters this week off a three-week layoff after becoming a new dad, his wife Meredith giving birth to son Bennett last week.

Scheffler faced another break from his beloved routine on Saturday with his regular caddie, Ted Scott, away at his daughter’s high school graduation.

In Scott’s place was Brad Payne, a pal of Scheffler who is a former college player and chaplain of the PGA Tour.

Spieth, McIlroy charge

Scheffler stumbled back early with a double bogey at the par-5 second. He found a fairway bunker, needed two shots to escape the left rough and two-putted from 40 feet. Then he made bogey at the par-3 third, missing a par putt from just outside five feet.

At the fourth, Scheffler blasted his tee shot 77 feet over the hole into bushes beyond a walkway, golf’s version of being in jail. He needed three shots to reach the green and sank a 10-foot putt to salvage bogey.

Scheffler birdied the fifth and seventh but stumbled again with a bogey at eight.

Jordan Spieth, needing a victory to complete a career Grand Slam, birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 67 and stand on eight-under 205, five off the lead.

World number two Rory McIlroy, who filed for divorce on Monday from wife Erica after seven years of marriage, was 3-under through 15 holes and at 8-under overall stood five adrift of Schauffele.

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