AKRON, Ohio – So much for a claret jug hangover.
Two weeks after coasting to his first Open Championship win, Rory McIlroy is in contention on the PGA Tour after firing a 4-under 66 in the third round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. At 11 under, he trails Sergio Garcia by three shots.
While McIlroy’s game is clearly firing on all cylinders, he attributed much of his success to a single aspect of his play.
“I’ve never driven the ball better. I’m excited, I really am,” McIlroy said. “I feel really comfortable with that part of my game, and that part of my game is the foundation of my game. If I can drive the ball well, everything else seems to sort of float on from there.”
McIlroy struggled for much of last year, but appeared to turn a corner with a win in at the Australian Open in November and has carried that momentum into this season, where he has two worldwide wins and hasn't finished worse than T-25 on the PGA Tour. The timing of that shift in performance, he explained, is far from coincidental.
“I feel like I’ve driven the ball really well all year,” he said. “I feel like since I got this driver that I’ve been using since early October last year, it’s just really coming together and really clicked. That’s been a big part of the reason why I’m driving so well.”
McIlroy now faces a role reversal as he looks to chase down Garcia, who he beat by two shots last month at Royal Liverpool. He finished his third round with a pair of birdies, and emphasized the importance of playing his way into Sunday’s final pairing with the Spaniard.
“It will be nice to play alongside him tomorrow and at least keep an eye on what’s going on,” he said. “Try to apply a bit of pressure when I can, but just really looking forward to getting in there and having another chance to win a tournament so soon after what happened at Hoylake a few weeks ago.”