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Rory McIlroy pulls within shot of Xander Schauffele in Wells Fargo Championship

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Xander Schauffele has gone 38 tournaments without a win on the PGA Tour.

Rory McIlroy is doing his best to make sure Schauffele’s painful drought continues.

McIlroy shot a bogey-free 4-under 67 on Saturday on fast greens to pull within a stroke of Schauffele with 18 holes remaining in the Wells Fargo Championship.

Schauffele, who entered the day four shots ahead of McIlroy and Jason Day, scraped and clawed his way to a 70 to get to 12-under 201 as he looks to avenge last year’s runner-up finish here at Quail Hollow.

“I’m going to have to earn it tomorrow,” Schauffele said. “I’ve got Rory breathing down my neck. I’ll look at the leaderboard here shortly, but yeah, I think if I strike the ball they way I did today off the tee and just a little more focus coming into the greens, picking the spots and then going through my process a little better, should be in a good shape.”

He will be again paired with the steady McIlroy, who has shot 67-68-67.

Sungjae Im was four shots strokes back after holing out from bunker on No. 18 to save par and shot 69. Sepp Straka matched McIlroy’s low round of 67 for the day and was alone in fourth at 7 under, while Day was fifth at 5 under — making five bogeys in a 73.

McIlroy birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to pull within two shots, then got to one when Schauffele bogeyed the 12th.

The crowd began chanting “Rory! Rory!” as the star from Northern Ireland stepped to the 13th tee.

Seizing the momentum, McIlroy rolled in another birdie putt on No. 14 to move into a tie, but Schauffele matched that with a long birdie putt of his own moments later. Schauffele fought off McIlroy the rest of the way to maintain the lead despite finding the sand eight times in the third round. He had five sand saves.

McIlroy caught a break on the difficult par-4 18th when his tee shot somehow avoided the creek on the left side of the fairway and came to rest sitting up in the tall grass. With a good lie, he found the edge of the green and two-putted for par to become the only player to not have a bogey Saturday.

“Two straight bogey-free rounds, this is what it must feel like to be Scottie Scheffler,” McIlroy joked of the world’s No. 1 player and recent Masters champion, who is not playing this week.

Schauffele maintained the lead on the 18th when he got up-and-down from a bunker.

“Some sleepy wedges in there unfortunately, some really good up-and-downs, kind of a mixed bag,” Schauffele said. “Definitely made it harder on myself is what it felt like from being in some good spots in the fairway.

McIlroy averaged 338 yards off the tee on Saturday, outdriving Schauffele’ by an average of 23 yards.

“The driving is more just me committing to most of the time hitting that little cut that I’ve been hitting off the tee, and then having the freedom to just, every time I hit a good tee shot, the more confidence I get and then the more I want to just keep hitting it,” McIlroy said.

Straka has been a big surprise.

He’s had an inconsistent season that includes four missed cuts and four top-25 finishes. But he’s playing his best golf of the season following a fifth-place finish at the RBC Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, South Carolina.

“A good finish here would be great, being able to perform at a course that may not fit your eyes as well as some other courses is always great, because that means something’s working well,” Straka said. “The last three rounds have been great, it’s been a lot of fun actually playing well here. Yeah, hopefully we keep it rolling.”

Day started the day with hopes to challenge for the lead, but was 5 over for the day through the first 13 holes before rallying with three birdies in the final five holes.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer

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