McIlroy just one shot behind the leaders in bid to end nine years of hurt

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy tees off on the 12th hole during the third round of the 2023 U.S. Open at The Los Angeles Country Club in Los Angeles, Calif. on Saturday, June 17, 2023. (Robert Beck/USGA)

Rory McIlroy insists he feels good about his game heading into the final day of the 123rd US Open Championship after he ground out a 69 to trail Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark by just one shot.

McIlroy is in third place on nine-under-par with Fowler and Clark in double digits while the big names are circling at LA Country Club as Scottie Scheffler lurks on seven-under par, while Harris English, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele are all within five shots of the lead.

The 34-year-old roared out of the traps with two birdies in three holes before dropping one on the par-3 4th after missing the green left. Eight successive pars followed before he bogeyed the par-4 13th. He took advantage of the par-5 14th to return to -9 and closed his round with four straight pars.


“I feel pretty good. The golf course definitely got a little bit trickier today than the first couple of days,” explained McIlroy. “Felt like I played really smart, solid golf. Hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens. Sort of felt somewhat stress free out there, if you can ever call golf at a U.S. Open stress free.

“Overall, yeah, pretty pleased with how today went, and feel like I’m in a good spot heading into tomorrow.”

McIlroy hasn’t tasted major glory since the 2014 PGA Championship, since then he has won everything there is to win outside of the four big championships. The four-time major winner has been rewatching videos of his Open Championship win at Royal Liverpool nine years ago in a bid to rekindle old feelings.

Despite winning four major titles, it feels like the Holywood man is starting again and while he says he has a game plan for Sunday he is unsure how things will unfold.

“I don’t know. It’s been such a long time since I’ve done it. I’m going out there to try to execute a game plan, and I feel like over the last three days I’ve executed that game plan really, really well, and I just need to do that for one more day.”

Brooks Koepka and Matthew Fitzpatrick have been critical of the golf course set up this week in Beverley Hills but McIlroy insists it feels like a US Open particularly since the scoring hasn’t been too low after record rounds of 62 on day one.

“I think it’s felt like a U.S. Open all week. The scoring was surprisingly low over the first couple of days, but it doesn’t look or feel like any of the other three major championships.

“I think it’s definitely — the U.S. Open has definitely got its own identity, and I think that identity was pretty strong from the opening tee shot on Thursday.”

McIlroy leads the field in strokes gained off the tee and is 2nd in greens in regulation after putting on a clinic in driving at times and he feels his patience from tee to green has been rewarded.

“Yeah, like the tee shots are hugely important, to then give yourself the opportunity to hit the greens and attack the pins. I haven’t been playing out of the rough that often this week, which has been really nice, and I think I’ve played smart off the tee, and I’ve done what I needed to to get the ball in play.”

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