McIlroy simmering just three back ahead of Farmers finale

Bernie McGuire

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy produced a third round at the Farmers Insurance Open, and excuse the analogy, much akin to boiling the kitchen kettle.

You start off with the kettle full with fresh water and it gets to the point where you can clearly hear it bubbling away but it does everything but whistle. McIlroy turned the kettle on but for the opening five holes he couldn’t find a fairway and then near mid-round when there was a hint of a whistle, he eventually arrived at round’s end with a lukewarm two-under par 70.

Surprisingly, thanks to misadventure at the pointed end of the tournament, McIlroy found himself at seven-under par after 54-holes and only three shots from the lead heading to the final day.

Mexican Carlos Ortiz emerged from the carnage at the top to birdie his closing three holes in a round of 66 and finish on 10-under par before being joined by Patrick Reed who birdied the last in a score of 70. Last November the 29-year-old Dallas-residing Ortiz became only the third Mexican to win on the PGA Tour in capturing the Houston Open. Now he’s on target for a second Tour success and a double invitation to next April’s Masters.

“I am definitely more confident and I’m getting to know myself and I’m having a different perspective on the way I’m playing,” he said. “I’m taking it easier, I’m trying to see the good things in everything, not only on the golf course. That makes it seem ‑‑ I just want to come out here, give my best. If my best is 78 or 66, that’s okay, but as long as I give my best, that’s all I’m trying to do here right now.”

Reed was met by a PGA Tour rules official after his round following an embedded ball incident at the 10th hole but was told there had been no infringement at the time. That was again confirmed post his round though opinions at SKY Sports Golf were clearly divided with suggestions Reed was wrong to lift and mark his ball, if he believed it to have been originally embedded in the rough, as he had argued, before getting the official to inspect it first.

Aussie Adam Scott produced a real rollercoaster round that included a ninth hole eagle along with five birdies and four bogeys plus a fourth hole double-bogey in a round of 72 to be among five players tied in third place two shots further back at eight-under par. Also on eight-under is 2017 event winner, Jon Rahm (72), the American duo of Lanto Griffin (72) and Sam Burns (70) plus Norwegian Viktor Hovland (73).

McIlroy went into the traditional third round ‘moving day’ at five-under par and just four shots behind second round leader Hovland. McIlroy was off to a poor start sending his opening drive on the South Course, host venue to June’s US Open, held straight left into rough from where he managed to save par.

He missed the fairway again at the second but saved par, then was short of the green at the par-3 third hole before paying the price for another poor drive in finding a right fairway bunker at the par-4 fourth hole and walking off with a three-putt bogey ‘5’. It was not until the par-5 sixth hole that McIlroy found the first fairway of his round in taking par and found the ‘short stuff’ for a second hole, at the par-4 seventh, being rewarded for a first birdie in draining an 11-footer.

For McIlroy, it seemed to be the spark he needed as evident in splitting the fairway with a best drive of the day, a cracking 334-yard straight as an arrow drive leading to a second shot to just left of the ninth green, followed by a chip to some three-feet to move one-under for his round.

Three pars followed with McIlroy finding the right rough off the tee at the par-5 13th and then landing his third to just 21-inches for the third birdie of his round to be then three-under for seven holes. McIlroy found the fairway at 14 and 15 for regulation pars and then having a one-putt for par at the par-3 16th, he missed both the final two fairways.

“I mean, I sort of walk off a little feeling like I didn’t get that much out of my round, but looking at the scores out there it’s actually pretty good,” he said. “I think today was a day where you just sort of had to limit your mistakes and I did that really well. I had a three-putt bogey on 4 and then after that I played the rest of the golf course in 3 under on the way in.

“I feel like the last two days I’ve come in saying I probably could have squeezed a few more out of the round, but at the end of the day it seems like a lot of people are struggling with short putts and the poa, it gets tricky, especially when it gets a little soft. It meant the ball can start to wander a little bit on the greens. Yeah, I mean, as I said, if I hadn’t seen a leaderboard I probably would be a little disappointed, but seeing that a 70 is a pretty good score today, I’m pretty happy.”

A check of McIlroy’s stats reveals he hit just six of the 14 fairways while he took 30 putts with six of those being one-putts and the lone three-putt at the fourth. And McIlroy heads to the last day of a third Farmers Insurance Open with prior results of T5th (2019) and T3rd (2020).

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