Though Rory McIlroy tied for tenth last year at the Memorial, naturally, he still made mistakes, but the 22-year-old has learned from those to minimize the damage — which is what you need to do to stay in contention at Muirfield Village. McIlroy shot one-under 71 during the third round, good enough to be tied for fifth going into Sunday. However, he didn’t play particularly well, hitting only 11 greens in regulation, which is below average for McIlroy.“I only hit 11 greens, which is not really like me, but I hung in there,” said McIlroy, speaking to the press afterward. “I played the last few holes, the last six holes in three-under par, so I was happy with how I finished. Puts me in decent position going into tomorrow.”
For the most part, McIlroy has managed to avoid big numbers, though he has had two double-bogeys in 54 holes so far. But at Muirfield Village, a tiny mistake can turn into a disaster. The conditions have considerably firmed up this week. With the hot, humid temperatures and the hard fairways, the ball is going a long ways.
McIlroy, who is considered one of the longer hitters, pulled driver out of his bag about six times. On the other holes, he played it safe with 3-irons, 5-woods and 3-woods because if he had hit driver, he would have run the risk of going through the fairway and into trouble. Even average-distance hitters, like Matt Kuchar, played the same strategy. (When I asked Matt’s caddie Lance why they were taking 3-woods and irons, he said they were playing US-Open style golf. In other words, percentage golf.)
“I felt last year I made a few silly mistakes and I’ve tried to change my strategy a little bit,” McIlroy said. “I’d still say I’m pretty aggressive, but yeah, conservative on holes where you don’t think the risk is worth taking.”
And how would he sum up his strategy in one sentence?
“I think you need to pick the right time to be aggressive,” he said. “I’m conservative on some holes, but you just really need to pick the right time and select the right pin positions where you can get aggressive with it and go for it.”
Okay, that was two sentences, but I guess we’ll let it slide this time.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)