JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Rory McIlroy is ready for a break.
The U.S. Open champion, taped right wrist and all, shot a 4-over 74 at the PGA Championship on Saturday. McIlroy got off to an awful start with a double bogey on the first hole and a bogey on the third. He rallied with three birdies coming in but was 12 shots from the top before second-round co-leaders Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley had teed off.
“It just wasn’t meant to be, a real frustrating week,” McIlroy said. “One more day to go. I’ll give it my best, shoot a good score and take a couple of weeks off.”
McIlroy said the wrist he injured Thursday when trying to hit a ball that was up against a tree root has improved each day.
“I can feel it, but it shouldn’t be enough” to keep him from playing, McIlroy said.
He acknowledged once again that he hadn’t used good judgment in trying to advance the ball forward on the third hole Thursday instead of pitching out sideways into the fairway.
“If I had to be in the position again and hadn’t know what was going to happen, I probably would’ve done the same thing,” the 22-year-old said with a grin. “It’s just one of those things.”
McIlroy had hoped to end the year winning a second major. Instead, he’ll work to finish as high as possible at Atlanta Athletic Club.
“If I got back to even par for the tournament, I think that would be an accomplishment,” he said. “You’ve got to be as optimistic as possible.”
McIlroy said a more realistic goal might simply be a round in the 60s at the par-70 course. “I haven’t shot under par this week,” he said.
No matter where he finishes, McIlroy is packing up the clubs for a couple of weeks before his scheduled return at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland starting Sept. 1.
“It would be good to win a couple of more times,” he said. “Even thought a won one tournament and it was a big tournament for sure, I want to win a few more times to call this season a success.”
VINTAGE TOMS: David Toms tapped into the game that won him the 2001 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club and a decade later, he’s back in contention.
Toms shot a 65 on Saturday – the lowest round of the day – that took him to 2-under for the tournament.
Toms began the day eight strokes off the lead and didn’t make up a shot over his first 11 holes. Then Toms flashed his major-winning form. He made an eagle on the par-5 12th hole and followed with consecutive birdies, the last when he holed out from a sand bunker about 40 yards out on No. 14.
When Toms stepped up to the par-3 15th, his juices were flowing as he thought about the site of his 5-wood, hole-in-one there in the third round a decade earlier. A plaque commemorating the moment sits next at the tee.
“People were saying stuff in the crowd about doing it again,” Toms said. “You flashback to this time, or this week, 10 years ago.”
Toms’ score was the lowest in his past 38 rounds at the PGA. He shot a 65 in the third round of – you guessed it – his 2001 major victory.
Toms still has plenty of work to do, five shots back of co-leaders Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner. But he says he’s put himself position to put some heat on those ahead of him come Sunday.
“If I can have one of those days, I certainly will be in the mix,” he said.
MASTERS MOJO: Charl Schwartzel has loved playing the majors this season and the reigning Masters champion is near the top again at the PGA Championship.
Besides winning the green jacket, the 26-year-old South African finished ninth at the U.S. Open and 16th at the British Open. He continued that strong play at Atlanta Athletic Club with a 66 that moved him to 2-under and up into the top 10 at the year’s final major.
Schwartzel said before the tournament he hoped the good vibes from his win at Augusta National – he birdied the course’s final four holes – last April would follow him in his return to Georgia.
So far, they have.
Schwartzel played a bogey-free third round that featured four birdies, including one at the difficult par-3 15th hole.
Atlanta Athletic Club’s final four are as hard a stretch as the pros ever face, Schwartzel said. If he can come close to duplicating his Masters success, Schwartzel still thinks he can succeed at the PGA.
“These four holes are going to decide this golf tournament,” he said.
DIVOTS: The slide of 2003 PGA winner Shaun Micheel continued. After shooting an opening 66 on Thursday, Micheel had rounds of 78 and 77 and is 11-over part at Atlantic Athletic Club. He has had bogeys or worse on 17 of his last 36 holes after going bogey free in round one. … Mike Small, the Illinois golf coach who is the lone club professional to make the cut, shot an even-par 70 on Saturday. The score was tied for his second lowest in 19 career PGA rounds. … Larry Nelson, a three-time major winner from Georgia, received the PGA Distinguished Service Award this week. Nelson won the 1981 PGA title played at Atlanta Athletic Club.