McIlroy loses ground with tough finish at British Open
Carnoustie, Scotland — Rory McIlroy pledged to “go down swinging” in his bid to win a major for the first time in four years. He might have to swing for the fences after the way he finished Saturday at the British Open.
On a day of low scoring, McIlroy bogeyed two of his last three holes for a 1-under 70. Instead of being two shots behind, he was four back, certainly not out of it. And he wasn’t about to change his strategy of being aggressive.
“Go out and hit a lot of drivers,” McIlroy said. “I felt like today the course was perfectly set up to take advantage of it and attack it. Tried to do that for the most part. Maybe my wedge play wasn’t quite as good as it should have been, but I gave myself plenty of chances.”
McIlroy said he felt like he left some shots out on the course, and was disappointed at the way he finished. Still, he’s won the Open before and believes he has a reasonable shot to do it again.
“I’ve got a bit of experience at this,” he said. “Maybe more so than some of the other guys on the leaderboard. But the leaderboard is packed with a lot of very, very good players.”
McIlroy and other players on the leaderboard are keeping an eye on the notoriously fickle Scottish weather going into the final round. The wind is expected to pick up some and if it shifts direction the scores could go a different direction than they did on Saturday.
The best thing, McIlroy said, is there are only five players in front of the group bunched four shots off the lead.
“Just need to get off to a fast start tomorrow,” he said. “I’m obviously disappointed after the way I finished, but I’m still in the tournament. I’m only a few shots behind. The wind is supposed to pick up a little bit. So it will make things interesting.”
Kevin Kisner has been hearing all week that the strongest wind would be on Sunday, which is fine by him.
“I think it’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” Kisner said.
He only had one wish.
“As long as 18 is downwind, I don’t really care,” he said. “I played with Zach (Johnson) today and he said the last time they were here, they hit 3-woods all four days on 16 and 4-iron on 18. So I can’t imagine that direction and how difficult that finish would be.”
Zander Lombard dropped two shots on the 17th hole when he pulled it into a ditch, took a drop, hit into a bunker and missed the cut.
He made up for it in a big way.
“I said to my caddie walking down the fairway, ‘Let’s have a finish for the crowds at least,’” Lombard said.
After a strong drive on the 18th, the South African hit a gap wedge from 132 yards that landed in front and to the left of the hole, checked and turned to the right and then dropped in for an eagle.
“It was just awesome soaking up the energy and taking it in,” Lombard said. “I feel really positive for tomorrow, and I’m going to fight for it.”
One bad swing
Rickie Fowler opened with two birdies in four holes and was one shot out of the lead with a par 5 coming up at No. 6.
That turned out to be his undoing.
Fowler pulled his tee shot so far left that it went out-of-bounds. He sent his next shot from the tee some 40 yards to the right, and he wound up making a triple-bogey 8. That wasn’t his only mistake. He made three more bogeys, including on the 18th, and that offset the eagle he made on the par-5 14th.
But it added to a 73 — only Pat Perez with a 74 had a higher score among the last 14 players to tee off Saturday.
“Obviously wanted to head in the right direction today, but didn’t do that,” Fowler said. “Back to the drawing board. We’ll come out hot tomorrow and see what we can do. Made some good swings coming in, but like I said, just didn’t execute through the middle of the front nine and (it) cost me.”
Fowler was eight shots behind and plays Sunday with Patrick Reed.
Justin Rose was about 18 feet away from going home Friday when he made the birdie putt on the 18th to make the cut on the number.
One day later, he was five shots out of the lead.
No one took advantage of the calm conditions like Rose, who played bogey-free from the third group out and shot 64. It was his lowest score at the British Open by two shots, and at the end of the day, Rose was in a tie for 13th.
“There’s a difference between being 3 over on Friday and way off the lead and 3 over and way off the lead on Saturday morning,” Rose said. “You kind of feel a bit more grateful to be here rather than Friday night, you feel frustrated to be there. So I think the birdie on 18 last night freed me up, and I’m just very happy to be out on this golf course and not down the road somewhere else this morning.
“Obviously, I had nothing to lose.”
He won’t be losing much sleep. Rose had the entire afternoon off to rest, and he gets to sleep more on Sunday.