Rory McIlroy is hopeful that an aggressive approach will pay dividends as he looks to build on two late third round birdies that have revived his title hopes at the Northern Trust.
The Holywood star had carded four bogeys through his opening 14 holes to sit at plus-one for the round and in need of a quick finish to keep his tournament hopes alive.
With his power, the drivable par-4 16th was always going to present an opportunity and having come up just shy but on the short grass with his tee shot, McIlroy burned the edge of the cup for eagle before knocking in the birdie putt.
On 17, the 30-year old doubled down, dialling in one of his much-maligned wedges from the centre of the penultimate fairway, almost holing out with his approach coming to rest just two feet from the pin.
He couldn’t manage a hat-trick of birdies at the last but holed a solid six-footer for par to ensure the momentum remained heading into today’s final round; McIlroy just four back at minus-10 after a moving day 70 with Patrick Reed out in front by one at -14.
“Very important,” said McIlroy on his Saturday finish when asked about his tournament hopes. “You know, I thought 16 was a good birdie chance anyway, but 16 is playing quite tricky straight back into the wind. A lot of guys are laying up and if you do lay up, it’s not a very nice wedge shot in there. I played it aggressively and got it to the front of the green and made a good up-and-down.
“To birdie 17, as well, it was — the putt on 18 had a look, as well. It was just a bit too hard. But yeah, they were big. Just to shoot under par today going into tomorrow, a nice little bit of momentum there.”
The plan now is to remain aggressive with the winds expected to ease for this evening’s final round.
“I would like to see this wind play down a little bit so we could play a little more aggressively. Today was just about trying to hit it into middles of greens and two-putt and try to make birdies on the par 5s and sort of, you know, try to plot your way around.
“But if the wind lies down a little bit tomorrow, I think maybe fire at a few more pins and try to be a bit more aggressive. I’m right there, get off to a good start and I’m right in the tournament.”
Sadly the same can’t be said for Shane Lowry in his first event back since his Open win at Portrush. The Clara man got stuck in the mud on moving day, dropping 15 places into a tie for 35th after grinding out a one-over par 72.
McIlroy gets his final round underway at 18.20pm Irish time.
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