Rory McIlroy feels he still has a “wonderful opportunity” to clinch a first major in almost five years despite going into the final round of the US Open five shots off the lead.
McIlroy recovered from an uncertain start to the third day at Pebble Beach, but spurned a few good birdie chances in a one-under 70 that got him to six under for the tournament, but he will need a fast start on Sunday to put pressure on Gary Woodland and Justin Rose.
The 2011 champion scrapped his way up the first hole and needed four to reach the green before holing a five-foot putt to limit the damage to a bogey, but he steadied himself with four pars before getting back on track with a birdie at the sixth – his first birdie at a par-five all week.
The 30-year-old struggled to make much happen on the greens over the next eight holes and he did well to scramble a par at the long 14th, where he ran up a seven on Friday, but he found the target from 12 feet at the 15th only to pay the price for a poor tee shot at the penultimate hole.
An ambitious seven-iron found the front bunker and he needed three more to get down, but he atoned with two superb blows to 20 feet at the last and two-putted for a cast-iron birdie which gave him a lift heading into the final round.
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“It’s definitely not a golf course or a golf tournament where you can go chasing,” he said afterwards. “But even though I’m still a few off the lead, it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to go out there and try to add to my major tally.
“I’ve been very pleased with how I’ve played all week. I felt for the most part today I did the right things and I need to do 18 more holes of that, but just get a little bit more out of the round tomorrow than I did today. I’m expecting the conditions to be similar, but I could see the course just getting a little firmer and a little faster and just being a touch trickier.”
Most of the good scoring this week has come over the first seven holes, but McIlroy is wary of being too aggressive and vowed to remain patient rather than become overly aggressive.
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