The third round of this year's Wells Fargo Championship turned into the Rory McIlroy show, with everyone else just happy to play a small part in the proceedings.
The world's top-ranked player started Saturday at seven under par and three shots behind Webb Simpson. He ended it with a four-shot lead after firing an 11-under 61 to take a comfortable lead into the final round on Sunday.
Here's a look at the leaderboard following the third round at Quail Hollow Club:
There were signs on Friday that McIlroy was poised to make a big move. He fired a bogey-free 67 on Friday and sounded confident after the round (via BBC.com).
"It's a real solid score; it sets me up well for the weekend," McIlroy said. "I'm going to be in one of the final groups, and it should make for an exciting weekend."
McIlroy turned that excitement into what should be a victory lap on Sunday, though the number of low scores posted in the third round means he can't take the foot off the gas pedal just yet. His 61 set a new course record, per Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard:
According to the PGA Tour's official Twitter account, McIlroy's 61 actually broke his own mark of 62, set in 2010:
The run started early for McIlroy, as he shot 31 on the front nine. He continued on the back nine with six birdies in seven holes from No. 10 through No. 16. The birdie on 15 gave him 10 for the round, tying another course record, per ESPN Stats & Info; he would go on to break the mark on the next hole:
There are certain athletes who can find another level that no one else is capable of, such as LeBron James in basketball and Aaron Rodgers in football. McIlroy is that player in golf right now. Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman simply noted he was in "the zone" Saturday:
The PGA Tour tweeted out this video of McIlroy's fifth consecutive birdie putt on the 16th hole:
McIlroy did have a chance to reach 59 with birdies on the last two holes. He "settled" for par on No. 17 to break his run of five straight birdies and was unable to secure an eagle on the par-four 18th, missing out on that particular piece of history.
After the round, McIlroy did admit he reached a point, when he started thinking about 59 (via the PGA Tour):
Per Golf Channel's Justin Ray, 61 is the lowest round of McIlroy's already-illustrious PGA Tour career:
To put things another way, as Tilghman did, McIlroy just stood on top of a mountain and shouted down to remind everyone who the best golfer on the planet is right now:
It's amazing, and almost disappointing, to think McIlroy just had one PGA Tour win—in match play, no less—coming into the Wells Fargo Championship. He's got everything lined up to secure his second with 18 holes to play.
Oh, there were other players on the course Saturday, as well. Phil Mickelson was on the verge of a good round entering the 18th hole at 11 under for the tournament and on pace to shoot a 68 if he made par on the final hole.
Instead, Lefty lost it all in the blink of an eye. He shot a seven on the final hole to finish with a 71 and enter Sunday at eight under par. Per Ray, it was the worst performance of Mickelson's career on that particular hole:
Earlier in the round, Mickelson had closed the gap between himself and the leader to one shot. He couldn't keep up with McIlroy, but that triple-bogey changed the entire complexion of his round and how he enters Sunday with 18 holes to play.
Here's video of how the round nearly ended for Mickelson (via the PGA Tour):
Simpson lost the lead through no fault of his own, firing a solid four-under 68 to enter Sunday at 14 under par and keep a good pace with McIlroy. The saving grace for his round came with a birdie on the par-three 13th hole and an eagle on the par-five 15th hole to push his score to 15-under par.
The 29-year-old needed those because he would bogey the 18th hole to lose a shot on McIlroy, leaving him with a four-shot deficit to overcome in the final round. He hasn't shot worse than 68 in a round thus far, so this tournament isn't over yet.
McIlroy has gone 38 holes since his last bogey on this course, so Simpson and everyone else have their work cut out for them.
It's easy to take McIlroy's greatness for granted, since he's been at this level for four years already, but when he has everything going right, there's a good chance history will happen.