Rory McIlroy heads into the very last staging of the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational a ‘little sick’ of finishing second and idetermined to bring down the curtain on the Firestone event with a victory in Akron, Ohio.
McIlroy didn’t drop a shot in posting a three-under par 67 to be tied in second place with England’s Ian Poulter (70) on 11-under par ahead of the final round on the Firestone Country Club course and the European duo are chasing PGA Championship defending champion, Justin Thomas (67) who heads the $10m event by three shots on 14-under par.
One of McIlroy’s strong points this week, as he seeks to win for a second time this year, is that every time he’s pulled out driver he’s driven the ball in excess of 300-yards.
“It’s the best I’ve hit it off the tee, and probably the best I’ve hit the ball overall,” he said.’ “So, I’m feeling good about tomorrow. It’s a great opportunity to test what I’ve been trying to work on this week, test it under the conditions on a Sunday when you have the chance to win.”
“I’m really excited about that. I think it’s going to be great prep for next week, as well, so I’ll be fully engaged to try and win this tournament but knowing that if I play well tomorrow, it puts me in the right frame of mind going into next week.”
McIlroy revealed: “The hands have been going away from me and the club’s getting behind me and sort of flat and the shoulder plane’s been getting flat. So, I ‘m trying to get it back to setting it upright so then I can use my lower body to shallow the club on the way down. I’ve been working on it all year.”
“The more you play tournaments, the more you fall back into bad habits. It’s a bad habit that I got into sort of at the end of ’15 so it’s been there for a couple of years, even more, and I’m just trying to get it back to where I want to swing it.”
McIlroy now finds himself being paried for the final round with Thomas, the same player he will be grouped with for the opening two rounds of next week’s PGA Championship with the third Bellerive member to be Tiger Woods.
“The last time I won here I was three behind going into the last day and had a fast start,” he said.
“It’s going to be nice to play in another last group and I’ve played a few of them this year and I feel like I’ve handled myself pretty well. I felt like I could have done better at Wentworth and definitely Dubai, as well.”
“JT (Thomas) and I know each other pretty well and it will be good fun. We practice together back down in Florida and we practiced together quite a bit last week, so that practice for both of us has paid off coming into this week.”
And there’s the added incentive for McIlroy, who was joint second in his last event, the 147th Open at Carnoustie along with being runner-up in May’s BMW PGA Championship and then earlier this year he slumped to second in losing the Dubai Desert Classic.
“I’ve finished second too many times this year, and third to start the year in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“I played well and I played well enough to win a few times this year and I only got over the line first once. So, tomorrow’s a great opportunity to try and win again. I’ll need a good round, I’m still a few behind but I’m getting sick of all these seconds.”
Woods’ goal of earning a record-setting ninth victory in the same Tour event ended when he shot a third day 73 to slip to just inside the top-30 at three-under.
Woods, on the day of the five-year anniversary of his 2013 Bridgestone success, was very to-the-point in summing-up his third round
“I just played like crap,” he said.