DUBLIN, Ohio – After sweating the cut line hours after leaving Muirfield Village, Rory McIlroy was just happy to have a tee time in the third round of the Memorial Tournament.
When McIlroy finished his second round at even par, his weekend plans were hardly in doubt. But a brief rain storm later halted play and softened the course, and the remaining players feasted in the late hours of Friday afternoon. With only the top 70 and ties making the cut, McIlroy’s group at 144 ended up T-69.
As a result, he looked at his early-morning opportunity Saturday as a bit of a bonus and took full advantage, shooting a bogey-free 64 to rocket from the cut line to within three of the lead before the co-leaders began their third rounds.
According to McIlroy, the key to finding sudden success was adjusting expectations.
“I really just treated it like practice,” McIlroy said. “Just threw the tournament out the window, go and try and work on what you’ve been working on on the range, and go from there.”
McIlroy put in a 90-minute range session following his second-round 70, and that momentum quickly transferred during a front-nine 31 Saturday that included a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on No. 5. He was 8 under after 13 holes before finishing with five straight pars.
The 64 was the lowest score of the tournament, and it could have even been a few shots better had his putter cooperated. While he needed only 24 putts, he also missed on three other birdie chances from inside 9 feet that could have helped him approach the course record of 61.
“It was all there today,” he said. “I missed a couple of chances on 14 and 15, and on 9 as well, I guess. But apart from that, it was all pretty good.”
McIlroy entered the week knowing that this would serve as his final competitive prep before heading to Shinnecock Hills for the U.S. Open. After stumbling into a bit of found treasure in the third round, he’s certainly glad that he was afforded an opportunity to stick around for the weekend.
“Getting a little bit more comfortable with my swing, and today it was just an opportunity to go out and test it and see how it held up,” McIlroy said. “So I’ll try and do the same thing. I’m probably going to be five or six shots back going into tomorrow anyway, so just put the tournament out of your mind and just try to play a good round of golf.”