Jon Rahm could add further insult to Rory McIlroy’s indifferent moving day showing should the Spaniard win or finish runner-up in the Memorial on Sunday.
Rahm broke clear of the field picking-up four birdies in succession in a round of 68 to move four shots clear of the field at 12-under par on the Muirfield Village course in Dublin, Ohio.
The second round leading American duo of Ryan Palmer and Tony Finau struggled in posting one-over par 73s to be now sharing second place at eight-under par.
Finau was left licking his third day wounds as he was cruising in picking-up three birdies in 11 holes to be three shots clear of the field at 12-under but then played his closing seven holes in five-over par for a round of 73 to be lying third at eight-under par.
Rahm’s last victory came in November at the DP World Championship with his last ‘individual’ PGA Tour win coming in January 2018 at the CareerBuilder Challenge in Palm Springs.
“I don’t think about taking advantage as four shots on a windy, difficult, firm golf course is nothing,” said Rahm.
“It’s me making two bogeys and somebody making one birdie and then suddenly it’s only a one-shot lead. Many times when I see myself three, four shots behind, like I did at Torrey, for example, I’ve always hoped for really bad conditions because if you play good, it’s the easiest way to make up a large deficit.
“Now I’ve got to flip that and hope I have good weather because if you play good, it’s the best way I have to possibly increase that lead and try to win by as many as possible.
“That’s going to be my mission tomorrow, just go play good golf and hopefully have a good cushion coming down the stretch, especially on 18 so I can just enjoy that walk.”
McIlroy’s disappointing showing in Dublin, Ohio continued with a third round, second straight level par 72 to remain at two-under in the Jack Nicklaus hosted event at Muirfield Village.
The current World No.1 has uncharacteristically not broken 70 over the three rounds of the whopping $US 9.3m event.
McIlroy’s third day showing was a mix of six great birdies, including two birdies in his opening three holes, but also just as many bogeys.
McIlroy’s scorecard, not for a first time since the Tour returned to competition on June 11th, was a roller-coaster showing as aside from the two opening birdies, it was much a scenario of every time he grabbed a birdie, he soon gave a shot back.
That is what transpired in grabbing a 14-foot birdie on six as McIlroy then bogeyed seven and eight.
He birdied 10 but bogeyed 11. He birdied 13 but then gave the shot back on 14 and he then two-putted 15 for a birdie but then at the par-3 16th his tee shot was short in the rough from where he chipped to seven feet but two-putted for a bogey ‘4’.
McIlroy ended his round with a pair of pars but now heads into the last round trailing 10 shots behind Rahm.
The present World No. 2 ranked Rahm is not only now targeting a fourth PGA Tour success and an 11th win worldwide but the double Dubai Duty Free Irish Open winner would go to No. 1 in the world should he win and McIlroy finish second or worse.
“It’s extremely important for me to be No.1 in the world. A few months ago in Dubai I got the opportunity to make some Spanish history, and it would be doing it again to become No.1 after Seve,” said Rahm.
“It’s obviously a big deal. I can’t sit here and try to diminish it and avoid it because it would just be lying to myself because it is a big deal. But it is a consequence of me winning tomorrow. What’s important to me tomorrow is hit good shots, be committed and get the job done. Everything else will be taken care of afterwards.”
Rahm could also become only the second Spanish-born golfer after the late Seve Ballesteros to move to No. 1 in the world, should he finish second on his own and McIlroy was placed outside the top-30.
“It’s always tough to put it into words,” said Rahm when asked what it would be like to follow Seve as World No. 1.
“Seve is a huge influence of mine. I’ve said many times thanks to that Ryder Cup in ’97 and his captaincy and the way he inspired many not only in Spain but in Europe, he’s the reason why I’m playing here today, and any time I can do something remotely close to what he did, it’s pretty emotional. I can’t lie.
“It’s something that deep in my core as a Spaniard and as a player I would love to achieve, and if you think about it, major champions that came after him like Sergio and Olazábal never got to be, so it would be quite unique.”
But again, it’s all a consequence of me winning tomorrow, right, so it’s an afterthought. So I’ve got to get out there tomorrow, play solid again and get the job done and think about the No. 1 afterwards.
Seve Ballesteros became the second player after Bernhard Langer to become World No. 1 in late April 1986 (The World Rankings commenced at the 1986 Masters) and held the honour for 20 weeks.
Then from November 1987 to mid-August 1989, Seve was No. 1 on four other occasions and for a total of 61 weeks.
No other Spaniard has held the honour of World No. 1 with Jose Maria Olazabal reaching a career high of second in the world in capturing the 1991 Catalan Open and denied the top ranking for much of that year by the combination of Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo.
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