US Open: Rory McIlroy back in the hunt after solid 68 at Winged Foot

Written by on 20/09/2020

Rory McIlroy was delighted to revive his hopes of a second US Open title as a high-quality 68 hauled him into realistic contention on day three at Winged Foot.

The positive response to his Friday 76 began with an excellent par save at the first, and his holing out from tricky distances continued for six holes before a delightful wedge to 10 feet at the seventh set up his first birdie of the day.

McIlroy did well to get down in two from a greenside bunker for another birdie at nine which completed a resolute, outward 33, but he could not avoid a dropped shot at the next despite a sublime pitch from a tough lie in the rough with both feet in the sand.

His 10-footer for a four lacked pace, but he saved par from the same range on 11 and another delicate chip set up his third birdie of the round at the long 12th before a clutch up-and-down at 15 kept him two under for the day.

Three solid closing pars kept him within striking distance of the leaders heading into the final round, and he will look for more of the same on Sunday as he chases his first major win in over six years.

“Yeah, really good,” was McIlroy’s assessment of his round. “I think anything under par on this golf course today is a really good score. I saw Alex Noren go out there and shoot three under earlier. I’m not saying it’s out there, but he got a good one, and I did too.

“The wind is not quite as strong as it was yesterday, so it maybe played a touch less difficult I’ll say. Not easier, but it was a little less difficult. Some of the hole locations are still pretty tricky and got to leave yourself on the right side.

“But 68 out there is a really good score. I don’t know where that’s going to leave me at the end of the day, but I’m feeling pretty good that I’ve got a good chance going into tomorrow.

“You would think that you’d want tougher conditions because it’ll make it more difficult for the guys in front of you, but also makes it more difficult for yourself. I think looking at the forecast, the conditions are going to be pretty similar to today, which is fine.

“If I go out there tomorrow and shoot another 68, I won’t be too far away. No matter where I am at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good shot.”

McIlroy was in freefall when he dropped six shots in a morale-sapping six-hole stretch over the first half of his second round and also bogeyed three in four holes after the turn, but he dug deep to par the last five which gave him a positive vibe to take into Saturday.

“I felt like I finished the round well yesterday,” he added. “I was sort of haemorrhaging after like 12 or 13 holes, and then to just par my way in, five in a row, just to get it in the clubhouse and regroup, and then I started the same way today.

“I parred the first six holes, made a birdie on seven, made another birdie on nine, so played a really nice stretch of holes there from the 14th last night to the ninth today. I played those holes in two under par and didn’t make a bogey in that stretch.

“You’re going to have stretches in US Opens where you’re going to make bogeys and you’re going to make mistakes, but if you can back it up with stretches of golf like I showed there, that’s what you have to do. It’s not going to be all plain sailing in this tournament.”

(c) Sky Sports 2020: US Open: Rory McIlroy back in the hunt after solid 68 at Winged Foot

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