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Rory McIlroy in contention going into final round of RBS Heritage

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Rory McIlroy lines up a shot on the 9th green during the third round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Hilton Head Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Rory McIlroy lines up a shot on the 9th green during the third round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Hilton Head Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

AP

Rory McIlroy lines up a shot on the 9th green during the third round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Hilton Head Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

World number one Rory McIlroy put the RBS Heritage's coronavirus issue to one side to shoot a third-round 66 and significantly improve his position at Hilton Head in South Carolina.

The Co Down native was one of the players to have contact with Nick Watney on Friday shortly before the American tested positive for Covid-19 and withdrew from the event.

McIlroy followed his second-round 65 with a five-under 66 to move to 10 under, three behind early clubhouse leader Joaquin Niemann.

With some of the leading players still to begin their rounds, it was likely McIlroy would be further behind by the end of play but a second successful day left the 31-year feeling upbeat.

"I've been a little bit more decisive and committed off the tee in the last two days. Much better, I need to try keep doing that with the same game plan," he told the media after his round.

McIlroy said he had not had a Covid test after Watney's positive result but would continue to take the necessary precautions.

"No I didn't, I didn't feel like I was in close enough proximity. I saw him on the putting green, we kept our distance," he added.

"I don't think anyone was blind to the fact someone would catch the virus and it is a shame they did but it is one case and as long as it is contained to that we move forward.

"We're still in the middle of a pandemic, I think we've done really well to start up again.

"I've enquired the last two weeks about working out somewhere but I haven't felt comfortable doing it, I'm doing all my workouts at home.

"Harry (Diamond, his caddie) quarantined at my house for two weeks before we came on the road and we've been eating in the house as much as we can or eating at the clubhouse.

"The only time we go out is at the start of the week to get groceries."

McIlroy carded six birdies, including four on his back nine, with his one dropped shot coming at the par-four 13th.

Tyrrell Hatton crafted a blemish-free round of 63 to join a group of four at the top of the leaderboard ahead of the final round.

The Englishman had four birdies inside the first five holes and reached the turn at five under.

He then picked up another three shots before finishing his round off with a 24-foot birdie putt.

The eight-under round follows a seven under on Friday and saw him move 21 places up the leaderboard where he sits tied with Abraham Ancer, Ryan Palmer and Webb Simpson.

Simpson, the overnight leader, could not follow up his opening scores of 65 and carded a 68 on Saturday, mixing four birdies and a bogey.

The leaderboard at Hilton Head in South Carolina remains tight with 17 players within three shots of the lead ahead of Sunday's final round.

Carlos Ortiz, who started the tournament with a pair of bogeys, shot a 63 to be part of a trio sitting a shot behind the leaders, while Ian Poulter and Matthew Fitzpatrick are tied for eighth on 13 under for the tournament.

Belfast Telegraph