5 things: McIlroy working on his swagger
BETHESDA, Md. – Five things to take from the third round of the U.S. Open, where Rory McIlroy extended his lead to eight shots.
1.) Metronome man: His 68 Saturday gave him a 14-under 199 total and an eight-shot lead on Y.E. Yang. McIlroy’s metronomic swing has worked perfectly this week. He’s hit 46 of 54 greens this week, three more than anyone else in the field. Only four other players have hit more than 40. Now he must “finish the race,” the mantra Tiger Woods repeated to himself as he closed out his dominant victory at the 1997 Masters.
McIlroy talked earlier this week about playing with more swagger after becoming tentative during his final-round 80 at the Masters. He seems to be accomplishing that objective.
“Having a little bit of attitude and a killer instinct, I think that’s what you need on the golf course, especially in the position that I find myself in,” McIlroy said. “You can’t get complacent. You have to – no lead is big enough, so you need to just keep going.”
McIlroy’s performance already is one for the record books:
• He broke Jim Furyk’s 54-hole U.S. Open record by a shot. Furyk shot 200 in the first three rounds of his 2003 victory at Olympia Fields.
• McIlroy is the first player to reach 14 under par in a U.S. Open.
• His eight-shot lead is second only to Tiger Woods’ 10-shot lead after three rounds of the 2000 U.S. Open.
• If he wins, he’d be the first wire-to-wire winner at the U.S. Open since Tiger Woods in 2002. That feat has been accomplished just six times. McIlroy also has a chance to become the first player since Lee Janzen in 1993 to win the U.S. Open with four consecutive rounds in the 60s.
2.) Also-ran: Yang could only laugh about his chances in Sunday’s final round. “I’ll just try,” he said.
He added, “I wanted to catch up a little bit, I have to be honest with you. But at the same time, the player with the better shot, with the better putt, with the better composure is leading right now. So I have no regrets. Right now, the better player is leading.”
3.) Westwood goes low: Lee Westwood shot his lowest career score in the U.S. Open, tying for the low round of the day (65) with Jason Day. This is Westwood’s 12th U.S. Open, and Saturday marked only his third round in the 60s.
How did he do it? Mostly with ballstriking. He drove it well, missed only one fairway and one green, and his lone hiccup of the day was a three-putt bogey at the fourth hole.
Nonetheless, he’ll begin Sunday nine shots behind his International Sports Management stablemate, Rory McIlroy. But Westwood wasn’t yet conceding victory for the young Northern Irishman.
“No, they don’t give trophies away on Fridays and Saturdays,” he said. He later added, “You don’t know how Rory is going to do. You don’t know how he’s going to deal with the big lead. He had a big lead in a major (the Masters) and didn’t deal with it well before. There’s pressure on him with regards to that. So we’ll see.”
Westwood is 9 under on his last 36 holes after shooting a first-round 75.
“I’m happy to be in the tournament,” Westwood said. “I thought I was going home after my round on Thursday. I played dreadful.”
4.) Leading the charge: Robert Garrigus, the long hitter with the short putter, is tied for third, and your low American through 54 holes. On Tuesday, Garrigus and his coach, former Champions Tour winner Jim Ahern, completely changed Garrigus’ setup on bunker shots. Garrigus now plays the ball farther forward in his stance, is more open in relation to his target line and has more bounce on his sand wedge. The changes paid off: he’s 5 for 7 in sand saves this week.
Here’s a Garrigus fun fact: his 9-month-old son, RJ, is 28 inches tall. Garrigus’ putter is 28.5 inches.
5.) Amateur hour: Patrick Cantlay and his caddie/coach, Jamie Mulligan, don’t show much emotion on the course. They could only laugh after his bunker shot on the par-4 15th one-hopped into the hole. That was the highlight of Cantlay’s 1-under 70 Saturday. He’s tied for 15th at 1-under 212 after a second consecutive sub-par round. He’ll start Sunday with a one-shot lead over Russell Henley, who shot 71 Saturday, in the race for low-amateur honors.
Henley was in the top 5 after a 4-under 32 on the front nine Saturday. He was 4 over par on the back nine, though. Henley and Cantlay have a chance to become the first amateur to finish in the top 10 at a U.S. Open since Jim Simons in 1971.
Brad Benjamin, the other amateur to make the cut, shot 80 Saturday and is T-71 at 12-over 225 (72-73-80).