Chip-in birdie on last hole makes McIlroy's day
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Maybe Rory McIlroy just needed some good vibes to get the mojo back.
In what has been the most trying year of his professional career – an equipment change and a major-league slump – McIlroy has given himself a chance to win major championship No. 3 on Sunday.
Let us not forget – McIlroy is the defending champion of the PGA Championship. On Saturday at Oak Hill, the 24-year-old looked the part with a 3-under 67 to get to 3 under for the tournament and within shouting distance of the lead.
“It's getting there,” McIlroy said. “It was good to feel the sort of rush again. I felt it a bit in San Antonio [Valero Texas Open] this year. You know, I had a good chance to win there, and I holed some pretty good putts coming down the stretch, which didn't matter the end. It was great. It was great to feel that.”
A solid round for the Northern Irishman turned spectacular with birdies on each of the last two holes. The birdie on No. 18 was extra special. From the fringe on the right side of the green about 30 feet from the hole, McIlroy chipped in.
As the ball settled against the pin in the cup, McIlroy let out a scream. He picked the ball out of the hole and tossed it into the crowd behind the 18th green.
The smile and the distinctive strut – both of which have been MIA in 2013 – were back.
“Those last two holes are playing really tough,” McIlroy said. “I had a great drive up 17 and still had 225 to the pin. I hit a good one. I mean, I'm not sure short. On the last hole, it's playing so tough into the wind, as well, pretty tricky little pin position there. I probably made up at least three, three and a half shots on those last two holes.”
Though he knows there’s plenty of work left to be done in the final round, McIlroy seemed relieved to be back on track and energized by his surge.
“I knew they were going to toughen the golf course up today,” he said. “I sort of thought two 65s would still have a chance, so 10 under par. But the way the conditions are with the swirling wind, it's tricky out there. I felt like I still had a chance.
“Every time I'm in that position, I just think back to Quail Hollow a few years ago and what I did the weekend there. It gives me a bit confidence knowing that I've been in that position before and I've been able to win. I know this is a major championship and it's a bit different, but I felt good enough about my game that I could go out there and post a good one today and at least give myself a chance going into tomorrow.”