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Rory McIlroy endured a torrid afternoon at The Country Club during the third round of the US Open. He struggled to cope with the blustery, cool conditions as low scores proved hard to come by for almost everyone remaining in the field.
Despite that, the Northern Irishman showed plenty of determination to stay in contention going into the final round. McIlroy hit only seven greens in regulation on Saturday, but, just as his challenge for a first US Open win since 2011 appeared to be on the wane, his putting came good.
Video: Things You Didn't Know About Rory McIlroy
McIlroy eventually finished with a three over 73 to leave him just three shots off the lead at one under heading into the final round. After his round, the 33-year-old didn’t sugarcoat the size of the task he had faced on Saturday. He said: “It was one of the toughest days on a golf course I've had in a long time. I just needed to grind it out, and I did on the back nine. You know, to play that back nine at even par today was a really good effort, I thought. Just kept myself in the tournament. That's all I was trying to do. Just keep hanging around. I felt like I did well to get it in under par for the tournament at the end of the day."
Despite some inaccurate putting during the first six holes, it finally ran hot for him thereafter. Even then, though, McIlroy explained that the windy conditions left him indecisive at times. He said: “I just haven't putted in this much wind in a while, and I hit a couple of putts today that I read and didn't play the wind, and they got hit by the wind, and then you're in two minds: is this next putt going to be hit by the wind, or is it not? Yeah, it was just one of those - it was hard. I was sort of in two minds about whether to play wind or not, and then on the back nine I sort of got a little more used to putting in these conditions, and that helped.”
Despite his travails, McIlroy is well in contention going into the final round as he looks for his first Major in eight years, and that’s a feeling that, per Golf Digest, McIlroy is keen to reclaim. He said: “I still remember the feeling and I want that feeling again. I’m one great round of golf away from doing it.”
To do so, he will likely need every bit of the guile he showed on Saturday. Conditions are not expected to be any more favourable, and McIlroy is under no illusions about the size of the task. He said: “I know guys aren't going to go out there and shoot the lights out. I mean, 67 from Will [Zalatoris] out there today is unbelievable. Such a good score. Sixty-eight from Fitz [Matt Fitzpatrick] as well. I think depending on the conditions tomorrow, that's what it's going to take. From me it's going to take something like that to get the job done, but as we've seen today, things can change so quickly.”
McIlroy begins his final round at 2.12pm EDT (7.12pm BST) alongside Sam Burns.
Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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