VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) — Ludvig Aberg of Sweden closed in on his second straight victory on Saturday when he posted a 6-under 66 at Wentworth for a two-shot lead over Connor Syme and Ryder Cup teammate Tommy Fleetwood in the BMW PGA Championship.
Aberg, in only his fourth month as a pro, seized control early in the third round with a 7-iron to 5 feet for eagle on the par-5 fourth, and even his lone bogey was dynamic when he holed a 35-foot putt on the 13th hole to keep command.
The Swedish sensation got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 18th for one last birdie to put him on 16-under 200. He is making it look easy, even if it doesn’t feel that way to him.
“I wish this game was easy but it’s not,” Aberg said. “I feel like I’m striking the ball quite well, and I’m just trying to take advantage of playing well.”
Aberg, who earned a PGA Tour card immediately after his senior year at Texas Tech from leading the “PGA Tour University” ranking, won the European Masters in Switzerland two weeks ago and was picked for the Ryder Cup the next day.
Now he has a chance to win a Rolex Series event and crack the top 50 in the world.
Syme surged into the mix with a superb back nine of four birdies and an eagle, only to have to settle for pars on the 17th and 18th — both par 5s — for a 65.
Fleetwood hit a laser from the fairway bunker on the par-5 12th to set up birdie, holed a birdie putt on the par-5 17th to get within one shot, but then wasted a chance to get closer when his second shot on the 18th clipped a tree and left him a tough shot to get close. He shot 67.
Callum Shinkwin had a bogey-free 64 and was three shots back at 13-under 203 along with Aaron Rai (67) and Ryan Fox (66).
Masters champion Jon Rahm looked to be making a run at the lead with a birdie on the 11th hole — his 12th birdie in a 21-hole stretch dating to Friday — only to drop two shots coming in from the fairway. But he closed with two birdies, including the 18th when he hit a fairway bunker shot over the water and behind the pin, from where it spun back to 5 feet.
He shot 66 and was four behind.
Rory McIlroy made the cut on the number with a birdie in the dark on Friday night. He shot 67 on Saturday and was 10 shots behind in his final event before the Ryder Cup.
All 12 players on Europe’s team are in the field, and all 12 — including Captain Luke Donald — made the cut. Four of them are within five shots of Aberg, starting with Fleetwood and including Sepp Straka and Tyrrell Hatton at 11-under 205.
But it starts with Aberg, playing before his largest gallery as a pro and not looking the least bit bothered by the moment. He missed a few drives to the left, especially on No. 13. The drive disappeared into the trees, prompting the Swede to hit a provisional off the tee.
He took a penalty stroke from the creek, chipped out to the fairway and left it 35 feet below the hole. He looked certain to make double bogey until he poured in the bogey putt and couldn’t help but smile.
“I didn’t even know there was a water hazard there,” Aberg said. “But took the drop, and chipped out and then I ended up making, I don’t even know how long the putt was but it felt pretty good when it went in. One of them bonuses, I guess.”
Fleetwood fell behind with an early bogey, only to get right back in the mix with a 12-foot eagle putt on the fourth and a 40-foot birdie putt on the next hole. He was bogey-free the rest of the way.
“Any time I was in trouble I managed to hit a really good shot out of trouble and for the most part the rest was really solid and gave myself a lot of chances,” Fleetwood said. “It’s not an easy golf course at all — some great round, 5 under on a Saturday.”
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