Louisville – Rory McIlroy has carried a comfortable lead into three major triumphs but knows he faces a shootout in Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship with no margin for error.
The world number one from Northern Ireland birdied three of the last four holes Sunday to fire a third-round 67 and grab a one-stroke lead over Austrian Bernd Wiesberger after 54 holes at rain-soaked Valhalla.
“I'm in the best position I can be in going into tomorrow,” McIlroy said. “I would rather be the guy that's being chased and have that shot advantage than not.”
McIlroy blew his first 54-hole lead in a major at the 2011Masters with a final round 80 but bounced back and led by eight shots entering the final round of the next major, the 2011 US Open, and won.
Since then he has won after leading by three shots at the 2012 PGA Championship and six strokes last month at Hoylake in winning the British Open.
“Tomorrow standing on the first tee is going to feel different than how it felt a month ago at Hoylake, because it is going to be a shootout,” McIlroy said.
“You know the conditions are soft. Guys are going to make birdies and you know that you're going to have to make birdies, as well to try and win.”
There are 11 rivals within five shots of the lead and receptive greens have helped keep McIlroy on top even as rivals matched him for the lead just as chasers pushed him last month at the British Open.
“Guys got pretty close to me at the Open. They got close to me again today and I was able to respond like I did on the back nine,” McIlroy said.
“It's not the biggest lead I've ever had, but I'm still in control of this golf tournament and it's a great position to be in.”
And that's even after a third round where he admits he was not at his best.
“I didn't have my best stuff for some of that round,” McIlroy said. “There were stretches of golf in that round that felt really good. I finished well but the middle of the round was pretty scrappy.
“But saying that, there was only two bogeys. I scrambled well. But yeah, the last two days, it has not been quite as good as I can be. If everything does click tomorrow, then obviously I feel like there's a very low score in me. I'll take sort of scrapping it around in 67 if it puts me in this position again.”
Some 67s, McIlroy said, are more satisfying than others.
“I'm just really happy mentally with how I'm sort of bouncing back from the bad holes and recovering well and scrambling,” McIlroy said.
“A 67 that way is more pleasing than a 67 hitting every green and feeling like you've missed every putt. Feeling quite good about myself. It could have been a lot worse. I made the most out of the round and they are the sort of rounds that are the most satisfying.”
But McIlroy says winning a tight battle will not bring any greater satisfaction than breezing to a blowout victory.
“I'll take a win any way it comes and if that means I have to scrap it out down the stretch, so be it,” McIlroy said. “Any win would be very satisfying.”
The 25-year-old Northern Irishman would become the fourth youngest player to win a fourth career major after Young Tom Morris, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
McIlroy could also become the first person since Ireland's Padraig Harrington in 2008 to capture two majors in a row and two in the same year. – Sapa-AFP