(Watch Rory performance from 4:16)
Rory McIlroy stages stunning back-nine rally at Open de France
Rory McIlroy staged a remarkable recovery from an error-strewn front nine to haul himself back into contention on day three of the 100th Open de France.
McIlroy was part of a five-way tie for the lead overnight after a superb second-round 66 at Le Golf National in Paris, but a double-bogey at the opening hole set the tone for an outward 40 before he fought back with five birdies in seven holes after the turn.
His flawless inward 30 salvaged a round of 70 which left him two shots adrift of Thongchai Jaidee, who was the only player in the field to keep a bogey off his card on Saturday as a three-birdie 68 lifted him to eight under par.
McIlroy shares second with the in-form Jeunghun Wang, who raced to the turn in 32 before dropping three shots in four holes on the back nine to also post a 70, while Bernd Wiesberger fought back from bogeys at the opening two holes to fire a 70 and close on five under.
McIlroy came within inches of finding water with a wild drive off the first tee, and he was unable to go at the green in two before flirting with the hazard again with his third, chunking a pitch and then two-putting for an ugly six.
The world No 4 did find a lake with his tee shot at the third and dropped another shot which he got straight back at the next, but further bogeys at the seventh and eighth saw him drop back to one under for the tournament.
But McIlroy regrouped and converted a solid iron at the short 11th for birdie, and he picked up another at the 13th before reeling off three in a row from the 15th to get to six under.
He left his 15-footer for a fourth straight birdie at the last woefully short, but he tapped in to complete a 70 and earn a brief share of the clubhouse lead with Wang, who was eight shots ahead of the Northern Irishman at the turn.
Wang, who won back-to-back starts on the European Tour in May, roared to the top of the leaderboard with four birdies in six holes from the second, but had four consecutive fives on his card from the 12th – three of them for bogey – and parred in to return a disappointing 70.
But Jaidee soon ended the day as the outright leader after a composed performance, making back-to-back birdies at six and seven before picking up another at the 11th before parring the final seven holes to put himself in prime position for an eighth European Tour title.
Wiesberger will play with McIlroy in the penultimate group on Sunday after he atoned for his errors at the first two holes with birdies at six, 10 and 13, while Martin Kaymer and Andy Sullivan are among a group of five players on three under.
Sullivan produced the shot of the day when his 186-yard second at the last pitched and spun into the cup for a rare eagle-two on one of the Tour’s toughest closing holes, repairing most of some earlier damage to his round caused by a double-bogey seven at the 14th and a bogey at the next.
His golden finish salvaged a 71 which got him into the clubhouse alongside Kaymer, who had three birdies and a superb eagle at the long 14th in his second counsecutive 68, while Joost Luiten, Alex Noren and Brandon Stone are the other men who are five behind Jaidee – Stone finding water at the last and closing with a six.
The low round of the day came from Lee Westwood, who birdied three of the first five holes, gave two back at the seventh and eighth, but made further gains at 10, 15 and 18 to post an excellent 67 which lifted him to two under.
There was confusion as Westwood’s score was originally reported as a 73 after he was wrongly given a triple-bogey seven at the 15th, which was run up by his playing-partner and Ryder Cup team-mate Thomas Bjorn.