MAMARONECK, N.Y. — When the third round of the U.S. Open began Saturday at Winged Foot Golf Club, Rory McIlroy was tied for 22nd after a brutal second round 76 ruined his promising 3-under-par 67 start on Thursday. It seemed a foregone conclusion that the four-time major championship was going to extend his winless streak in majors to 21 straight.
But not so fast. McIlroy pulled out of his second-round nosedive with a third-round 68 that pushed him up the leaderboard to seventh place at 1-over 211. He is six strokes behind leader Matthew Wolff.
When McIlroy finished his round, Wolff already had reached 5 under after a 30 on the front nine. Asked if he could make up that much ground, McIlroy said: "I don’t think that’s out of [reach] by any stretch of the imagination. If someone gets off to a decent start, maybe 1 or 2 under through five holes, and the leader goes 1 or 2 over through five, all of a sudden, you’re right in the thick of things. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good shot."
As poorly as he played in the second round, McIlroy managed to stop the bleeding by finishing with five straight pars after playing the first 13 holes in 6 over.
"I was sort of hemorrhaging after 13 holes," McIlroy said. "To par my way in, get in the clubhouse and sort of regroup [helped]. I started the same way today, parred the first six holes, made a birdie on No. 7, made another birdie on No. 9. So played a really nice stretch from the 14th last night to the ninth today. I played those holes in 2 under and didn’t make a bogey in that stretch.
"It’s not going to be all plain sailing in this tournament … If I go out there [Sunday] and shoot another 68, I won’t be too far away."