Rory McIlroy felt his tournament hopes had been rekindled after shooting his second under per round of the week – this time a minus-two 68 – to move into outright seventh ahead of the final round of this year’s US Open at Winged Foot.
The Holywood star’s round was a lesson in patience, picking off birdie chances when they arrived and finding clutch saves when he needed to. In the end, it amounted to three birdies, a bogey and 14 pars but it also saw McIlroy rise 15 places on the leaderboard and crucially, within striking distance of Matthew Wolff’s lead.
“Yeah, really good. Geez, I think anything under par on this golf course today is a really good score,” said McIlroy, who trails Wolff by six ahead of Sunday’s final round.
“I saw Alex [Noren] go out there and shoot 3-under earlier. You know, I’m not saying it’s out there; he got a good one, I did, and there’s maybe a couple other guys that are under par. You know, it maybe played a touch less difficult I’ll say. Not easier, but it was a little less difficult.
“But yeah, overall 68 out there is a really good score. I don’t know where that’s going to leave me at the end of the day, but I’m feeling pretty good that I’ve got a good chance going into tomorrow.”
His 68 would leave him six shots shy of young American Wolff who holds the 54-hole lead at five-under par as she chases a first Major title at his national open.
Needing just 30 strokes to the turn in a five birdie blemish-free front nine, Wolff dropped his first shot of the day on the par-4 16th but signed off in style by getting it back with a birdie at the last to leave him with with a two-shot lead to sleep on with fellow bash brother, Bryson DeChambeau looming large in second place on minus-three.
Although raw power has largely propelled both players to the peak of the leaderboard, neither has won a Major before, something McIlroy hopes to take advantage of from his one-over par position in the chasing pack, though he admits that a lack of crowds could make that pursuit easier for the leading duo in New York.
“It’s one variable that you just don’t have to deal with, where — is that a loss of an advantage to you who’s accustomed to being in that environment,” the four-time Major winner asked?
“I think it could be, a little bit. Maybe not a loss of an advantage to me, but just more of a — just makes it a touch easier for the guys at the top. Even today, look, you’ve got Bryson and P-Reed out in the final group, and any other U.S. Open final grouping you’ve got those two guys, things are going to be said and tempers are going to flare.
“Even if those guys don’t have to deal with that today, it just makes it a little different and maybe a touch easier if you’re in those final few groups.”
The Major winning experience will come from the likes of McIlroy and South African Louis Oosthuizen who climbed to third with a moving day 68 to move to one-under par.
Many people’s pre tournament favourite, Xander Schauffele, who is also looking to win a first Major, is just a shot further back at even par alongside Harris English and Hideki Matsuyama.
Unfortunately Shane Lowry starts a long way ahead of the final few groupings after making the wrong moving day moves on Long Island.
The Clara golfer had three holes to blame for a seven-over par 77 with a double-bogey and two triples on the card; Lowry is now sharing 55th at 13-over par.
Full scoring HERE