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Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy paid a visit to the ancient stone wall behind the road on the Road Hole Saturday. (Getty Images)

McIlroy bounces back from his 80 with a solid Saturday 69

Rory McIlroy's goal Saturday was to put his miserable second round right out of his head. He did exactly that, rediscovered his confidence, and is looking for a fast finish on Sunday.

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- He knows there’s a good chance he’ll look back Sunday night and try to find five shots.

He’ll turn that second-round 80 over in his head and think what could have -- what might have -- been. But for the moment, Rory McIlroy just wants to build on the confidence he rediscovered on Saturday and shoot a good closing round at St. Andrews.

That he’s still not shot in the 70s? That’s a good thing. Saturday at least. His third-round 69 could have been a 67, maybe a 66. But there’s no use going down that -- er, road.

He did that at the 17th hole. The Road Hole. Hit a 7-iron 210 yards -- thanks to the wind -- and it landed along the wall behind the putting surface. No real shot to the green. Instead, he had to play toward 18, chip up and … well, it turned into his second double of the week.

“Yeah, I feel as if I could have been a couple closer to the lead,” he said. “Obviously, I was playing pretty good up until 17.  I hit a good shot on 17, just got a gust of wind that completely switched.  I hit a 7‑iron 210 yards or whatever it was, and I just hit a 6‑iron on the last hole 175.

“Yeah, I just got a complete gust there, so it was pretty unfortunate,” he explained. “But that’s links golf, and you’ve just got to deal with it.”

Just like he dealt with his opening 63. And the where-did-that-come-from-how-much-else-can-go-wrong 80 on Friday.

“I just really tried to get yesterday’s round out of my head and just focus completely on today and tried to shoot a good score,” he said. “As I said, I’m not going to let one round of golf really get me down.  It’s only one bad round, and I’m sure I’ll shoot plenty more bad ones but hopefully just a few more better ones.”

What did he do to clear his head? Room service and “Shooting Stars” on BBC2. Then bed.

“I think it would have been very easy to let yesterday’s round sort of linger, and I just completely got it out of my head and just went and tried to shoot a good score today,” he said. “So I think just the response to what happened yesterday was probably the most pleasing thing.”

McIlroy turned 2 under for the day and got to 4 under after birdies at 12 and 15. Then came 17, which he followed with a good birdie at 18 to end the day.

“I really struggled yesterday, but I think playing in such a strong wind yesterday made today feel not as bad, even though the wind was still quite strong,” McIlroy said. “You know, I definitely hit a few shots out there that I wasn’t able to play yesterday.  I think it might have just been because I had 80 shots yesterday, so I had a little bit of practice.”

Yes, he was kidding. Just not about possibly wondering “what if” Sunday night. Then again, maybe . . . .

“If the lead tomorrow is 8, 9, 10 under par going into tomorrow, I feel I’ve got a really good chance because I know what I’m capable of around this golf course and I know what I’m capable of in final rounds,” he said. “We’ll see how far off the lead I am and hopefully I get off to a fast start.”

And, just maybe, shoot his 11th -- of his 12 -- round at St. Andrews in the 60s.
 

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