NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — Justin Rose did his part on another day of low scoring Saturday in the third round of the BMW Championship, running off four straight birdies early for a six-under 64 and a one-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele.
At stake for Rose, who is at 17 under over all, is moving to No. 1 in the world for the first time in his career.
Still ahead is a final round at soggy Aronimink Golf Club that could take more than one day to complete because of rain in the forecast, and will begin with 13 players within five shots of the lead. The list includes Tiger Woods, who shot 66 but made up no ground on the lead.
“If you shoot 65, you were losing ground,” McIlroy said with only slight exaggeration.
Rose’s birdie run quickly erased a two-shot deficit to Schauffele, and he finished the front nine birdie-birdie for a 29. Schauffele, hopeful that a victory will give the United States captain, Jim Furyk, reason to pick him for the Ryder Cup, stayed with Rose the until three-putting from the tight collar on the 18th hole for a bogey and a 67.
McIlroy picked himself up quickly from a double bogey on the par-3 eighth hole with a 3-wood onto a green so soft on the par-5 ninth that it barely bounced forward and caught a slope down toward the pin, leaving him a short eagle putt. Three birdies over the last six holes gave him a 63 and a spot in the final group.
The top 30 in the FedEx Cup after the final round will advance to East Lake in Atlanta for the Tour Championship in two weeks. Bryson DeChambeau has clinched the No. 1 seed with victories in the opening two playoff events.
The more interesting race is at the bottom. Jordan Spieth salvaged his round late again for a 66, but he is still just outside the top 30. He has never missed the Tour Championship, and he would probably face some form of penalty from not having added a new tournament to his schedule without competing in at least 25 events. He needs to be at East Lake to reach 25.
Keegan Bradley made two tough pars for a 66 and narrowly edged past Spieth for the 30th spot. For someone like Bradley, reaching the Tour Championship would put him in all four majors next year.
The average score Saturday, 67.17, was the lowest it has been all week. Only six players from the 69-man field were over par, and there was a 62 for the third straight round. Tommy Fleetwood has two of them, Friday and Saturday. After opening with a 71, Fleetwood goes into the final round two shots behind.
So does Rickie Fowler, despite a bogey on the final hole for a 65. Fowler played in the final group at Aronimink in 2011 when it held the AT&T National, though he faded to a tie for 13th. He is trying to win for the first this year.
For Woods, it was another lost opportunity, though he remains in the mix. He opened with two straight birdies, and the crowd was on his side. He followed with 11 straight pars, even though he had chances from 15 feet and closer.
How low is the scoring? It was the 17th time Woods had a 54-hole score of 198 or lower. The previous 16 times, he was leading or tied for second. At Aronimink, he is tied for 11th.
“I hit the ball well enough to shoot a low score and I got off to a quick start,” Woods said. “I was looking up on the board and everyone seemed like they were three under through eight, five under through nine. I was only two under par. I wasn’t doing much.”
A victory should be enough for Rose to reach No. 1 in the world, especially with Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka nine shots off the pace. Much depends on Justin Thomas, who is four shots behind.
The question is whether — or when — the fourth round will end.
Tee times were pushed back three hours on Saturday because of rain that had started overnight. Starting times have been moved up to 7 a.m. Sunday with hopes of having enough time to weather any storm.
The PGA Tour is off next week. The only activity of any relevance is Furyk making his final selection, which at this stage would appear to be down to Tony Finau or Schauffele. Finau shot a 67 and was tied for 15th, six shots behind.