McIlroy fires 61 to soar into Wells Fargo lead

Charlotte, NC ( - World No. 1 Rory McIlroy fired a course- record 11-under 61 in Saturday's third round and jumped four strokes clear of the field at the Wells Fargo Championship,

McIlroy's 61 broke his own course record of 62. Brendon de Jonge also carded a 62 last year. McIlroy also set the tournament's 54-hole scoring mark with his total of 18-under-par 198.

Jonathan Byrd set the old record of 201 in 2011.

McIlroy earned his first PGA Tour win at Quail Hollow in 2010. On Sunday, he will go for his 11th tour title.

"I saw Stewart Cink was maybe 6-under through 10, so I knew the course was gettable. Some front flags on the front nine, but you never think you're going to go out there and do something like that," McIlroy said. "Obviously delighted with the score. Always nice to break your own course record."

Second-round leader Webb Simpson carded a 4-under 68 and dropped into second place at minus-14. Robert Streb is alone in third at 11-under-par 205 after a third-round 71.

Brendan Steele (68) and Patrick Rodgers (70) share fourth place at minus-10, while Justin Thomas (65), Carlos Ortiz (66) and Will Mackenzie (70) are one stroke back at 9-under-par 207.

Phil Mickelson, the 2010 runner-up, had climbed into a share of the lead thanks to four front-nine birdies, but he triple-bogeyed the last to close a round of 71. He is one of five players tied for ninth at minus-8.

Before McIlroy soared into the lead, Thomas birdied the 15th to join Simpson atop the leaderboard at minus-10. However, Thomas bogeyed the last to slip one back, where he stood alongside McIlroy as part of a 7-way tie for second.

Simpson and Streb birdied the fifth and the former U.S. Open winner remained one ahead. McIlroy, who had birdied the third and fifth, got up and down for birdie at No. 7 to tie Streb for second at minus-10.

After McIlroy birdied No. 8, Mickelson birdied the eighth and ninth to grab a share of the lead with McIlroy and Simpson. Just after Mickelson's birdie, Simpson answered with a birdie at the seventh to move one ahead.

It was all McIlroy from there. He rolled in a 7-foot birdie chance and a share of the lead on the ninth.

McIlroy, who won the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, made it four in a row with a 13-footer for birdie at 10. He moved two clear of Simpson with a birdie on the 12th. McIlroy drained an 8-foot birdie try at 13.

At the drivable 14th, McIlroy hit the putting surface with a 3-wood off the tee. He 2-putted for birdie to move to 16-under. McIlroy got up and down for birdie at 15 and poured in his fifth consecutive birdie at the 16th, where he made a 14-footer.

McIlroy closed his round with a pair of pars.

"A little disappointed that I bailed out on my 7-iron on 17," said McIlroy. "I was thinking 59 from the 14th tee box. When I saw the tee up on 17, I knew it was a pin I could get at."

Simpson, who had three birdies through 13 holes, ran home a 21-foot eagle effort at the par-5 15th to jump within three of McIlroy. However, Simpson found water at 18 and that led to a closing bogey, which dropped him four behind.

"I birdied 13 thinking I was leading or tied for the lead, but I was four or five back. What an incredible round Rory played. Sixty-one, I didn't see it out there," Simpson said. "I played pretty good overall, but find myself four back."

NOTES: McIlroy owns the 54-hole lead for the ninth time on the PGA Tour ... He has won five of the previous eight times he was in that position ... McIlroy, Scott Pinckney and Gary Woodland had the only three bogey-free rounds on Saturday.