ATLANTA -- Curses to the wet rough at East Lake Golf Club. Rain, heavy at times over the past two days, has beguiled one golfer after another at the Tour Championship. It has sharpened the teeth of the beast.
Just ask Rory McIlroy. He was bitten twice during Saturday's third round of the FedEx Cup playoff finale.
McIlroy faced difficult up-and-downs after approach shots on Nos. 16 and 18 were halted from rolling back into greenside bunkers by the wet turf. He bogeyed each.
"Obviously, it would have been an easier up-and-down from there," McIlroy said of not playing from the sand.
No stance was more brutal than the one he faced on the final hole when his approach finished just above the left-side bunker. McIlroy took several minutes to try to get comfortable over the ball. Twice, he tried to address his ball with one foot in the bunker well below the other. When he finally hit, the ball ran well past the hole and finished in the rough on the opposite side of the green. He would need three more shots to card a double-bogey five and bring him back to an even-par day.
"I just couldn't get a stance where I could aim directly at the pin," McIlroy said. "I was aiming 10 feet right of the pin and trying to get the clubface to manufacture some kind of shot. I tried to do it with one foot in the bunker, but it didn't really work."
The even-par round of 70 has McIlroy tied for fifth, still at 3 under par, where he started the day. He is a long shot to win the playoff title, needing to win the Tour Championship and have Jason Day finish tied for sixth or worse, Jordan Spieth finish tied for fourth or worse, Rickie Fowler finish tied for third or worse, Henrik Stenson finish in a three-way tie for second or worse and Bubba Watson finish tied for second or worse. Long odds indeed. Make no mistake, he'll take the Tour Championship title.
There are only cloudy skies in the forecast for Sunday's final round. Perhaps there will be a round like Stenson's opening 7-under 63. Over the past two rounds, the low rounds have been one 4 under, one 3 under and six 2 unders.
McIlroy won't just lament the wet rough here. He quickly points to his performance on the opening holes through three rounds. He is 4 over par through the first four holes. Eliminate those mistakes, and he is one stroke off the lead.
McIlroy bogeyed Nos. 1 and 4 on Saturday. He bogeyed No. 3 on Friday and No. 2 on Thursday.
"I said yesterday I needed to get off to a fast start, and I didn't," McIlroy said. "... I need to play those holes a lot better tomorrow if I'm going to have any sort of chance to win."
McIlroy said he takes a positive in the way he putted over an up-and-down third round that featured the double bogey, four bogeys and six birdies. He got as high as third place when he was 5 under par through 13 holes.
"I would feel much better if I didn't just do that on 18," McIlroy said. "I feel good. It's not like any of the guys are running away from the field."
This article was written by Chris Vivlamore from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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