With Carnoustie threatening to show its teeth for the final round of The Open, with a serious wind forecast, McIlroy needs to make up for a series of missed opportunities during his third round.
The Northern Irishman was scrambling all day with a bogey at the fourth erased and improved by back-to-back birdies at the sixth and seventh.
However, the back nine was a rollercoaster, as birdies were repeatedly immediately cancelled out by dropped shots, while a bogey at the 18th didn’t help his reflections on a round that could have been improved.
He will now start four shots behind leaders Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner after a 70 left him on five-under-par. “The only good thing is there’s not many players in between me and the lead.” Added McIlroy. “It’s not that bunched. There’s a lot of people behind, it looks like, at sort of 4-under and 3-under, but between 5 and 9, there’s only a handful of guys, which is nice and sets up for a big final day”
However, there’s no doubt about his high stakes strategy for getting back in contention.
“I’m going to go out and hit a lot of drivers, I felt the course was perfectly set up to take advantage of,” he said.
“Perhaps my wedge play wasn’t quite as good as it should have been but I gave myself plenty of chances, I just need to regroup and get ready.
“Dropping those two late shots was a blow, I’d have been happier to be two off the lead heading into the final round.
“But, I’m still in the tournament, I just need to get off to fast start and if the wind picks up, that will make it interesting. I think a lot of the guys will think they still have a chance.”
While the 2014 Champion Golfer is looking forward to being in the mix down the stretch on Sunday he was also keeping his eye on the 14-time major winner Tiger Woods after his Saturday 66 .
“It’s good for golf,” added McIlroy. “He’ll definitely be feeling it. It’s his first time in the hunt for a major in a while. So, yeah, it will be good”
Paul Dunne carded a third round 73 to drop back to +4 for the tournament in a tie for 69th.
McIlroy is paired with last years runner up Matt Kuchar in game number 36 off at 2:15pm.