Determined McIlroy and Fleetwood lead home challenge at The Open
Rory McIlroy has vowed to go out swinging in a bid to land his second Claret Jug.
With Carnoustie threatening to show its teeth for the final round of The Open, with a serious wind forecast, McIlroy needs to make up for a series of missed opportunities during his third round.
The Northern Irishman was scrambling all day with a bogey at the fourth erased and improved by back-to-back birdies at the sixth and seventh.
However, the back nine was a rollercoaster, as birdies were repeatedly immediately cancelled out by dropped shots, while a bogey at the 18th didn’t help his reflections on a round that could have been improved.
He will now start four shots behind leaders Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner after a 70 left him on five-under-par.
However, there’s no doubt about his high stakes strategy for getting back in contention.
“I’m going to go out and hit a lot of drivers, I felt the course was perfectly set up to take advantage of,” he said.
“Perhaps my wedge play wasn’t quite as good as it should have been but I gave myself plenty of chances, I just need to regroup and get ready.
“Dropping those two late shots was a blow, I’d have been happier to be two off the lead heading into the final round.
“However, I’m still in the tournament, I just need to get off to fast start and if the wind picks up, that will make it interesting. I think a lot of the guys will think they still have a chance.”
McIlroy will be joined in the home challenge by England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who really had to work for his level-par round and will also start four back.
He couldn’t do much wrong during his second-round 65 on Friday but he was fighting from the start during an afternoon of contrasting emotions.
His back nine was a rollercoaster, with only two pars on the card - at the 10th and 18th - as four birdies vied equally with bogeys for attention.
But he’ll have no worries about Sunday’s forecast, having learned his golf on the windswept links courses of Lancashire.
“The wind is supposed to pick up, so that might be a helping hand,” he said. “I’ll have to draw on different stuff. I’ve got low rounds in me as you’ve seen the last few weeks.
“I actually felt the most comfortable I've been with my swing all week but I just couldn’t get things going.
“I felt more comfortable than I felt when I shot the 65 on Friday. That just shows what can go into scoring in this silly game.
“I’ve never been out this late or really competed like this in an Open before. It was a new experience for me but something that was absolutely brilliant. Having that home crowd that you get and the support, nothing beats that.”
Joining McIlroy and Woods five back is Tiger Woods after his best round at The Open since he last won it in 2006.
And the 2014 Champion Golfer is looking forward to be in the mix on a Sunday with the 14-time major winner.
“It’s good for golf,” added McIlroy. “He'll definitely be feeling it. It's his first time in the hunt for a major in a while.”
TheOpen.com is the only place to get all the latest news from The 147th Open at Carnoustie.
This time next year, The Open will return to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years. Be part of the biggest party in golf in 2019. Get immediate access to Priority tickets for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush when you sign up today to join The One Club for free. Simply go to TheOpen.com/PortrushTickets.