By Andrew Both
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, May 3 (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy found his putting touch to surge into contention with a sizzling third round 65 at the $6.9 million Wells Fargo Championship on Saturday.
The Northern Irishman barely made the halfway cut, but he took advantage of his reprieve with a seven-under-par showing in delightful morning conditions at Quail Hollow.
It remained to be seen how close McIlroy, at six-under 210, would be to the lead at the end of the day, but the similarities from 2010 are eerie.
"It's the exact same," said the two-time major champion, who four years ago also made the cut with nothing to spare, before shooting 66 62 to storm to victory.
"I was one-over (for 36 holes) and the lead was nine-under. I've shot one less today so I might not need the 62 I shot in 2010, but I'll take it."
McIlroy spent nearly an hour on the putting green after the second round, and the work reaped immediate dividends when he teed off early Saturday.
"I putted much better," he said after rolling in eight birdies to go with a lone bogey.
"I did some work on the putting green last night and I figured out what I need to do out there and it was a really solid round of golf.
"I didn't hit as many loose shots as yesterday. I played solid tee to greens but the real difference today was the putting. I holed more putts."
McIlroy's score could have been better, because he hit a beautiful wedge shot into the par-four 16th, only to watch his ball clatter against the pin and ricochet 18 feet away.
Followed by a huge gallery enjoying the brilliant sunshine, he had a tap-in par at the par-three 17th before getting up-and-down from left of the par-four 18th by sinking an eight-footer.
McIlroy's early tee time meant he missed watching his beloved Manchester United lose to Sunderland in the English Premier League.
Instead, he planned to settle back and watch the Everton-Manchester City game before switching over to the golf to see if his score is good enough to be within striking distance.
"It's going to take something special tomorrow," he predicted. (Editing by Gene Cherry)