McIlroy roars back up leaderboard with 69
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – It would have been easy for Rory McIlroy to fade away from the 139th Open Championship after enduring a second-round 80 on Friday at the Old Course. But Saturday he showed why he has the makings of a future Open champion, rebounding nicely with a 3-under 69 to get back to 4 under for the tournament.
Whether that will be close enough to the lead at the end of the day remained in question as the 21-year-old departed the grounds on Saturday evening. He did know he could have given himself a better chance had he not made double-bogey 6 at the Road Hole before making birdie at the last. At 17, he drove it well and had 210 yards to the hole. He chose 7-iron, caught a gust, and his approach ended up next to the stone wall that lines the right side of the hole. With a restricted backswing, he could not knock his third on the putting surface, then failed to get up and down for bogey. Six. Otherwise, he might have matched Henrik Stenson’s fine 67.
“Pretty unfortunate,” he said. “But that’s links golf, and you’ve just got to deal with it.”
He certainly dealt with the highs and lows of his first two days of St. Andrews with equal acceptance and maturity. A first-round 63, a second-round 80 ... who knows what he could have gone for on Saturday had he not had the right mental approach?
McIlroy did shoot 62 to win his first PGA Tour event this spring at Quail Hollow, and two days ago shot 63 at the Old Course, so who knows what he’s capable of posting going out well before the leaders with the right conditions on Sunday?
“I know what I’m capable of around this golf course and I know what I’m capable of in final rounds,” he said. “We’ll see how far off the lead I am, and hopefully I get off to a fast start.”
The last major champion who counted 80 among his winning score? George Duncan, who shot 80-80-71-72 and won the 1920 Open Championship at Deal.