Rory McIlroy has the rare ability to make golf look easy. If he misses the green, he makes a nice par putt to keep the momentum going. If he gets to a par-5 late in his round, he uses his exceptional length to make an eagle. The simplicity Rory has demonstrated over the first three rounds of The Open Championship has led to a six-shot lead over Rickie Fowler.
McIlroy’s third round had two parts. He had to scramble to make par for much of the first half, and a bogey on the 12th hole tied him with Fowler at 12-under.
In the second half, Rory stepped it into high gear with a 35-footer for birdie on 14, and then eagles on the closing par-5s, 16 and 18. At the end of the round, Rory was at 16-under total, six shots clear of Fowler.
Rory said, “I knew that Rickie was playing well in front. I didn’t know how well. I saw on 12, I think, that he got to within one of me, and then I bogeyed the hole and then it was tied, but I never panicked. I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I knew that I had some holes coming up that I could take advantage of and make some birdies on the way in.”
The only blip over the final stretch was a bogey on 17.
The 25-year-old’s performance reminded me of the final round at the 2012 PGA Championship. Rory shot 66 to win by eight strokes, and he made every putt dead center. Today, McIlroy shot 68 by rolling in several no doubters. He said, “The putter definitely saved me. Even as early as the 2nd hole. The 2nd hole I made a good par save there, and then from the 5th onwards I putted really nicely.”
The amazing ball-striking and putting has given Rory his swagger back, and the field is paying the price. “The way I look at it, six shots is better than five, seven shots is better than six, eight shots is better than seven. So I just wanted to try and be as much ahead as I possibly could. And that’s why I was grinding over the putt at the last, just to try and finish the round off well. I felt like those two shots into 18 deserved an eagle. I wanted to finish it off that way.”
Although McIlroy has a “take no prisoners” mentality this week, he is looking forward to his pairing with Fowler tomorrow. “I definitely won’t be wearing orange, that’s for sure. But no, Rickie is a good guy. He’s become a neighbor of mine. We don’t live too far away from each other in Florida. I see him around all the time. So we’ve become pretty close, and that sort of stems all the way back from the Walker Cup in ’07 from Royal County Down.”
Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel tweeted out a photo of the 2007 Walker Cup, and it is priceless:
— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 19, 2014
The youngsters have taken over. It should be an exciting final round as Rory goes for major number three and Rickie goes for his first.