Long and strong: McIlroy crushing his driver


Rory McIlroy’s aerial assault continued at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where the Ulsterman kept himself within striking distance for what could prove to be a pivotal victory.

McIlroy has unleashed an array of eye-popping tee shots this week, blasting the ball over and around nearly every obstacle the South Course at Firestone Country Club has to offer. Excluding his shots on par-3s, McIlroy has hit 39 of 42 tee shots at least 300 yards, including a 360-yard bomb that rolled into a divot Saturday on the 16th hole.

While he failed to make birdie there and has rued several inaccurate wedge shots, McIlroy still turned in a 2-under 68 to move into a tie for fifth at 6 under, three shots behind co-leaders Zach Johnson and Thomas Pieters.

“I’m hitting the driver really well,” McIlroy said. “When you’re confident with it, and you can go at it 100 percent, it feels good. It brings you back to three years ago when I was doing the same thing here. Hopefully that continues and I can keep it up, not just through tomorrow but obviously into next week as well.”

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McIlroy is making his first appearance at Firestone since his win in 2014, but he now finds himself in a familiar position heading into the final round. He trailed Sergio Garcia by three shots the last time around, but put together a closing 66 to race past Garcia and win by two.

It’s a sequence he hopes to re-enact as he looks for his first worldwide win since the Tour Championship and some momentum heading into the PGA Championship with friend Harry Diamond on the bag.

“I was three behind going into Sunday last time, and I think I took the lead by the sixth tee box,” McIlroy said. “There’s obviously a few more guys up around the lead this time around, but I’m going to need to start like that again.”