McIlroy: “I’ve got a great chance going into tomorrow”

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Despite stumbling to the clubhouse with two bogeys in his last four holes, Rory McIlroy believes he is right where he wants to be as he bids to hunt down Bryson DeChambeau at the US Open at Pinehurst.

Some poor iron play cost McIlroy bogeys on the par-3s 15 and 17 and also prevented a final group between the one they adore and the fans favourite, but a battling third round of 69 has left him in a share of second place on four-under-par, three shots behind DeChambeau.

In the top-7 for the sixth successive year heading into the final day, the 2011 US Open winner hopes he can produce the golf needed to end a near decade long wait for a fifth major title.

“I’m excited about it. It would have been nice to hole that putt at the last and get to 5-under and break out of that logjam at 4. Pros and cons. Pros and cons to being in the last group, and maybe playing one group ahead mightn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

“I’m pretty much in the same position that I was last year going into the final day at LACC. So familiar position, been here many times before, and hopefully tomorrow I produce the golf that’s needed to go one better.”

The gap is three. It could have been one, it could have been six but sitting alongside Patrick Cantlay and Mathieu Pavon, McIlroy will tee it up with the American in the penultimate group for the first time since the infamous ‘hat gate’ incident on Ryder Cup Saturday.

The Holywood native made a quick dart for the practice range after his round following some erratic iron play which plagued his third round.

From the middle of the fairway on the first, a pushed iron left him scrambling for his par. He got things moving with a birdie on the drivable par-4 3rd before another pushed approach to the par-5 5th found the green side bunker and he was unable to get up and down for a birdie.

A birdie on the par-3 9th kept him within touching distance of the lead but a pulled four iron to the par-5 10th combined with the first of a couple of poor green side bunker efforts on the back nine saw him only make a par.

McIlroy made a huge momentum saving par on the 11th and capitalised on that with birdies on 12 and 14 to get to within one of DeChambeau. But his approach to 15 flared out right and a poor bunker effort cost him a bogey before he missed the green right of 17 with just a nine iron, also costing him a bogey.

Now four behind and his hopes of a second US Open hanging by a thread, Bryson threw him and the field a bone with a messy double bogey on 16, although he bounced back in style with a birdie on 17 and McIlroy admitted he was watching.

“Yeah, very closely. I did an interview with NBC there, and while I was doing it, they were showing Bryson on 16, so I know what happened there.

“The last few holes are playing very, very difficult. Even 17, it’s downwind, but with that pin cut at the front, it’s hard to get that ball close, and even on 18 where that hole location is.

“No matter what happens, I feel like two shots, three shots, four shots, I’ve got a great chance going into tomorrow.”

McIlroy is in a very similar position to what he found himself in at last year’s US Open at LA Country Club. Although he is not in the final group tomorrow, being in the penultimate group might suit him. DeChambeau’s new found favouritism would have rivalled the support McIlroy would have received on Sunday.

“I think I’m embracing the questions that the golf course asks of you. I think there’s holes where you have to be aggressive. There’s holes where you have to be conservative. There’s hole locations that you can take on and hit wedges close to. There’s hole locations you’ve got to stay away from.

“It tests your chipping. It tests your putting. It obviously tests your mental fortitude more than any other golf tournament.

“As I said at the start of the week, it’s a style of golf that I’ve started to try and embrace over these last few years, and it’s the reason that my performances at the U.S. Open have been much improved over the last half a decade.”



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