Fowler takes lead over McIlroy in Las Vegas, eyes end to drought
Published: Oct 17, 2021 04:58 PM
Rickie Fowler, aiming to put a season of struggle behind him, fired a nine-under-par 63 on Saturday to grab a two-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy in the CJ Cup in Las Vegas.

Fowler notched his best round in three years, firing nine birdies without a bogey at the Summit Club, which is hosting the tournament usually held in South Korea because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Fowler won the most recent of his five US PGA Tour titles at the 2019 Phoenix Open.

Last season he failed to qualify for the FedEx cup playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career and he came into the week ranked 128th in the world. He will have his work cut out for him on Sunday with low scores abounding at the Summit, where McIlroy capped his bogey-free ­10-under-par 62 with a 21-foot eagle at the 18th.

He was looking forward to the challenge.

"I haven't been there a lot the last couple of years, so it's nice to be back in that position," Fowler said.

Northern Ireland's McIlroy was nine off the pace at the start of the round, but raced up the leaderboard with five birdies in a row from the third through the seventh holes.

He added birdies at the ninth, 12th and 14th before his final flourish.

McIlroy was one stroke in front of Mexico's Abraham ­Ancer (63), Australian Adam Scott (67) and American Robert (65). England's Tyrrell Hatton and American Keith Mitchell were tied a further stroke back on 199 and Australian Cameron Smith and England's Ian Poulter were tied on 200 - making it eight players within five shots of Fowler's lead.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth played in the final group with Mitchell, but didn't make a birdie until the 15th hole. That put him even for the day on the way to an even-par 72 that left him eight adrift.