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McIlroy takes two-shot lead into Honda Classic finale

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – After a Saturday 69, Rory McIlroy sits just 18 holes away from a redemptive victory at the Honda Classic. Here’s how things look through 54 holes at PGA National, where the Ulsterman leads by two:

Leaderboard: Rory McIlroy (-12), Russell Henley (-10), Russell Knox (-9), Jhonattan Vegas (-8), Keegan Bradley (-7), Luke Donald (-7)

What it means: McIlroy started the day with a one-shot lead over Brendon de Jonge, though at one point Saturday afternoon he was able to balloon that advantage to four. The 24-year-old has now led after each of the first three rounds following last year’s surprising withdrawal.

Round of the day: The day’s best round was carded early, as Tiger Woods went out in the second group of the day and fired a 5-under 65 in calm conditions. After barely making the cut, Woods notched seven birdies and now will begin the final round tied for 17th, though he’s still seven shots off the pace set by McIlroy.

Best of the rest: Like Woods, Stuart Appleby carded a 65 Saturday and, like Woods, he did it taking only 23 putts. The Aussie chipped in for birdie on the 18th hole to cap off a bogey-free round, one that moved him to 7 under through 54 holes. Appleby will now begin the final round among a large tie for fifth, in position to turn back the clock with a low round Sunday.

Biggest disappointment: De Jonge started the day as McIlroy’s closest competition, but quickly faded from view. The Zimbabwean rinsed shots at both Nos. 6 and 11 and bogeyed 18 to close out a disappointing 6-over 76 that dropped him eight shots off the pace. He’ll now begin the final round in a tie for 24th at 4 under.

Main storyline heading into Sunday: This still has the feel of a McIlroy coronation, as the Ulsterman appears very much in control of his game. Henley will play alongside him in the final pairing, though, and the 24-year-old already has a win under his belt on the PGA Tour. Should the wind blow across the Bear Trap, things could change quickly down the stretch.

Shot of the day: Henley stepped to the par-4 14th hole at even par for his round, but promptly entered red figures with an accurate wedge. The former Georgia standout took dead aim from 150 yards and found his target, holing out for an eagle to draw within a shot of McIlroy at the time.