Stunning finish gets McIlroy in the mix

10/08/2013 21:58:00
Rory McIlroy   (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

For a second day running, defending champion Rory McIlroy put together a flying finish at the US PGA Championship to surge inside the top ten with one round to come.

McIlroy, who yesterday birdied four of his last seven holes after a stuttering start had earlier threatened his place in the weekend action at Oak Hill Country Club, was level par on Saturday through 12 holes before three birdies in his last six holes – including two in succession to finish – helped the Northern Irishman sign for a superb 67.

The third round of a golf tournament is commonly known as ‘Moving Day’ and McIlroy’s heroics, completed amidst bright but breezy conditions in Rochester, certainly helped him do just that as the 24 year old jumped back inside a tie for seventh place, six shots off Jim Furyk's lead after much of the field struggled on Saturday.

It was indeed a remarkable turnaround, having been four over par for the tournament midway through his second round before a resilient fight back saw him close level par on Friday, and the two-time Major Champion showed some more of the same iron grit to get right back in contention.

A birdie at the sixth hole was tempered by his only dropped shot of the day at the tenth, before a second gain of the day at the long 13th preceded a truly extraordinary close.

Ranked by far the hardest two holes on the golf course, the World Number Three belied the statistics to sink a 50-foot birdie putt at the 17th before chipping in from off the green for a precious three at the last.

“It was good to feel the sort of rush again,” said McIlroy, who triumphed in record-breaking circumstances at Kiawah Island 12 months ago. “Making a birdie on 17 is like an eagle and then to follow it up with another on the last is even better.

“I had 24 putts for 71 on Friday and I had 25 putts for 69 on Saturday so  clearly my short game has been really, really good and it was just a matter of trying to get a long game in shape.

“I wouldn't say that that was my best ball striking round out there by any means, but I got it up and down when I needed to and that was the most important thing.”

With many of the field over par for the day, McIlroy knows he still might have a realistic chance of becoming the first from Britain to defend the same Major title since Nick Faldo in 1989-90.

“The way the conditions are with the swirling wind, it's tricky out there so I felt like I still had a chance,” he continued. “I felt good enough about my game that I could go out there and post a good one today and at least give myself a chance going into tomorrow.”

Scotland’s Marc Warren was another to take advantage of the high scoring on Saturday, firing five birdies en route to a two under par 68, a superb performance that saw the 32 year old US PGA debutant jump into a tie for 12th place on one under par for the tournament.

Warren has wife Laura with him this week and their four month old son, Archie, who has now been overseas to Ireland, France and the US since he was born.

“After the first day here on Monday I felt practice went really well but then I was a bit frustrated after the first round score I shot,” said Warren, who narrowly missed out on the flagship BMW PGA Championship in May, losing out in a play-off to Italy’s Matteo Manassero at Wentworth.

“I just felt I was trying a little too hard to be perfect with my swing but managed to settle down after that and yesterday’s round was one of the best tee-to-green all week so it was a good 67 and then to back that up today with a 68 is very pleasing.

“The wind makes the conditions a little tougher because when we played in the rain yesterday there was no breeze to speak of and that made clubbing a bit easier. Heading into tomorrow I will just work on the same things.  I won't hit that many balls this afternoon and will just chill out and get ready for tomorrow."