Rory McIlroy finished second but six shots behind Scottie Scheffler

Rory McIlroy did everything he could at the start of Sunday morning. Scotty Scheffler did more than that.

McIlroy skipped the only two holes he had left to play when the third round resumed at East Lake Golf Club Sunday morning, wrapping up a 7-under 63 that propelled him into a tie for second place on the PGA Tour season-end championship.

Schaeffler, however, had a bit more room to work and took advantage of the perfect morning conditions to bird four of his remaining six holes to open a six-shot lead over McIlroy and Xander Shaveli to enter the final round in the afternoon.

Scheffler (23-under) and McIlroy (17-under) will be paired together in the final round in East Lake with the $18 million FexEd Trophy at stake for the winner.

“It’s a perfect way to end the round. I think hitting the two good shots into 17 and converting that, then two good swings on the 18, yeah, it’s the perfect way to start the day, and I hope I can continue that until this afternoon,” McIlroy said.

“I would probably start a few shots back from what I would like to do. I would like to be a couple closer to the lead. But Scotty has had that advantage because of his good performance all year.”

McIlroy has already started the tournament six shots behind Scheffler with impressive starting results based on season rankings and playoff points. He and Schaeffler played three rounds in the under-13.

“I’ve never been in this position before, but it’s going to be a little new,” Scheffler said. “But at the end of the day, it’s still championship golf and I’ve been in some really tough situations this year, the Masters is definitely one of them and the other three (I won them).”

To capture the World No. 1 and become the first player to win three FedEx Cup titles, McIlroy will need a little help from the captain. McIlroy previously won the all-season race in 2016 and 2019.

“I can’t just go out and do anything very differently,” McIlroy said. “A golf course is golf. I play it the way I play it. It’s just a matter of whether I can carry out my game plan as well as possible and give myself a lot of bird looks, and it’ll still be receptive there and be very easy.”

“You saw how many low scores there were in round three, and I think you’re going to see a continuation of that into this afternoon.

“This golf course, again, is what it is. I don’t think you can be overly aggressive because you can put yourself in some bad spots, especially with the harsh Bermuda and how unpredictable that is. You still have to play a controlled round of golf. And being disciplined, but there’s still a way to marry off being disciplined by shooting low points, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of days.”

Shaveli, who twice moved into a share of the lead in the third round, failed to capitalize on the restart and played his remaining six holes in the 1-over to fall into the second share with a 70 tie.

“It’s simple, just chase. I put myself in a good position after two rounds, and shooting evenly here on the Tour is never going to work, unless you’re blowing 100 mph,” said Shaveli, who shot twice on the lowest result of 72 holes of the Tour Championship but You’ve never won a FedEx Cup. “Yeah, I just want to lower my head.”

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