Rory McIlroy enjoying the highs and brushing off the lows at The Concession
Rory McIlroy feels he has been “riding the rollercoaster” at The Concession this week as he hauled himself back into contention for the WGC-Workday Championship following a rocky start to his third round.
McIlroy concedes his form remains far from where he wants it to be, but he is still managing to mount a serious challenge for his fourth World Golf Championship title, firing a six-under 66 to get within four shots of the lead.
His inconsistency was epitomised over the first two holes, blocking his opening drive way right into the trees before clipping a magnificent recovery to 15 feet and nailing the putt for birdie, only to find sand from the tee at the next and thin his second into the water.
The resulting double-bogey was a big setback after such an encouraging start, but he got back on track with birdies at seven and eight and he began the back nine with a huge 30-foot putt for birdie on the 10th green before giving the shot straight back with a poor tee shot at the short 11th.
But McIlroy, needing a big finish to be a factor on Sunday, duly delivered when he followed a birdie at 12 with a brilliant eagle at 13, and further gains at the 15th and 17th left him in a good position to put early pressure on the leaders on the final day.
McIlroy was far from the only player to run up a big number as many of the big names have been punished by errant shots, and the world No 8 is fully aware that patience is a virtue around the Jack Nicklaus design, and that mistakes were almost inevitable.
“It seems like it’s one of these courses where it can give up a lot of birdies and some eagles, but it can bite you very quickly without really doing much wrong,” said McIlroy as he reflected on his second double-bogey of the week.
“It’s one of these places where you just have to stay patient and know that you’re going to have chances, and feel like this week I’ve been riding the rollercoaster a little bit, but it felt a little better today.
“I’ve just been shooting myself in the foot a little bit with some of the mistakes I’ve been making, but over the last 12 holes today I started keeping the momentum going the right way.
“I’m really happy with how I played coming in. The first couple of days around here I made plenty of birdies, I just was making too many mistakes. And it seemed like that was going to be the story of the day again after the first few holes.
“But once I got into the round and got some momentum going, picked up a couple, made a couple of good up-and-downs, picked up another couple, sometimes these rounds have a bit of a rhythm to them and I feel like I got into the rhythm of the round those last few holes. That was nice to feel because I really felt that over the last couple of weeks.”
McIlroy’s shot of the day was his bold second to the long 13th which set up his eagle on a hole where many of the field were struggling to keep their ball on the green, although McIlroy admitted he enjoyed a little slice of good fortune.
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“Oh, no, I got lucky. I was aiming at the TV tower and hit a professional pull,” he said. “I don’t know how my ball stayed where it did, but yeah, I took advantage of a bit of good fortune there, my ball staying where it did. Yeah, was able to make three there, which was big.”
McIlroy missed the cut at the Genesis Invitational last week and revealed he was tempering his expectations heading into the first WGC event of the year, and his opinion of his own form has not changed despite an encouraging, if inconsistent, first three days.
“I’m still somewhat pessimistic,” he added. “It’s okay, but it’s nowhere near what I feel like I can play. I feel like I’m sort of piecing it around. I’m getting it around, put it that way, but I don’t feel like I’m flushing it by any means. But it’s a work in progress and I’m seeing some good signs, which I guess is encouraging.
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“I’m playing a little better. Still doesn’t feel great, but it’s okay. I’m hitting the ball in the fairway, and you can make this golf course as easy or as hard on yourself as you want to be. If you want to take something on and put it into sort of smaller spots to give yourself better looks, you can, or you can lay back if you’re more comfortable doing that.
“And for a couple of tee shots on the back nine, that’s what I did, I just laid back. I knew I was going to have over 200 into 18, but I was happy hitting three-wood off the tee instead of hitting driver. Just keeping it in play, keeping it in front of you and going from there.
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