“I just need to do that for one more day.”
There was a moment, early in his third round at the US Open, when it looked as though Rory McIlroy was about to take off.
The 34-year-old smoked a 388-yard drive off the first tee, birdied two of his first three holes and move into a share of the lead, at Los Angeles Country Club. McIlroy has been steady and very, very good so far and has taken a liking to the course’s front nine.
What followed, then, was a little flat. Having carded two -5 front nines [30 strokes] on Thursday and Friday, McIlroy could only card five pars and a bogey before he reached the turn. That left him at -9 but heading into the much more treacherous back nine.
On the 13th, McIlroy carded his second bogey of the day and was back to -8. When Rickie Fowler moved to -11, minutes later, he was three back.
Then came another swing in this fascinating tournament. Clark had a wobble down the back nine but would birdie the 18th to finish on -10. McIlroy got to -9 with this sublime wedge approach and birdie putt:
Big birdie for @McIlroyRory ?
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 18, 2023
Rory McIlroy prepares for final push
It still needed a late putting wobble, and a bogey, for Rickie Fowler to open the door even more.
McIlroy will tee off at 2:19pm [10:19pm Irish time] with Scottie Scheffler, who had an eagle-birdie finish to steam into contention. 11 minutes later, Fowler and Clark set off. We will be following all the final round action in our US Open live feed.
There was a moment in the four-time major winners’ chat with the media when he was asked about possessing the ‘savvy of winning. His reply was searingly honest, as we have come to expect. Here, courtesy of ASAP Sports, is that full post-round interview with Rory McIlroy:
Q. How did you feel about today’s round, and how do you feel about your position going into tomorrow?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I feel pretty good. The golf course definitely got a little bit trickier today than the first couple of days. 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.
Q. You’ve won majors before, you’ve won this tournament before. You spoke recently about how you’re watching back your 2014 triumph at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. What boost does that give you, that know-how, that savvy of winning the sport’s biggest prize going into tomorrow?
RORY MCILROY: 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.
Q. Does it feel more like a U.S. Open now maybe since Thursday after the low scoring, and would you expect the same for tomorrow?
RORY MCILROY: 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.
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.
Q. You’re leading the field in greens in regulation this week; how much do you attribute that to your driver and going off the tee?
RORY MCILROY: I haven’t hit driver a whole lot this week. 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.
As I said, I just need to do that for one more day.
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