McIlroy's fourth top 10 of season bolsters cause
Call it a comeback within a comeback-in-progress. Rory McIlroy's attempt to contend at the PGA Championship on Sunday was thwarted by a triple bogey at the fifth hole, but he managed to shoot 2 under during the remaining 13 holes to card an even-par 70 and finish T-8 at 3 under for the week.
It's the second-straight week in which McIlroy has avoided a round of 76 or higher. Not the phrase you'd expect to see attached to someone just shedding the status of defending champion in a major.
While McIlroy has remained positive through the struggles of his season, his upbeat comments rang truer this week. Bouncing back from a triple bogey to finish in the top 10 will do that.
"I didn't hit many bad shots out there today," he said. "Made a big number on (No.) 5 and that wasn't really – I hit a good shot, exactly what I wanted to do with it. It just pitched in the exact wrong place.
". . . Was 4 under at that point; missed a little putt on the fourth to get to 5 (under). And then doing that, yeah, I felt like I just wanted to try and post as good a finish as I could."
Which he did, with three birdies during a six-hole stretch at Nos. 9, 10 and 13. A bogey at No. 16, his only blemish after the triple, failed to dampen his enthusiasm. That figures, considering he had endured worse in three recent tournaments:
- 78 in the first round of the Memorial Tournament;
- 76 in the final round of the U.S Open;
- 79 in the first round of the Open Championship, which led to a missed cut.
The T-8, keyed by a third-round 67 that McIlroy closed with back-to-back birdies, was the Northern Irishman's second-best finish of the season – matched at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the Players Championship, bettered by a second-place finish at the Valero Texas Open.
McIlroy lost his World No. 1 ranking this year. And although he's remained in the top 5 in the world, the difficulties are obvious when looking at the above list, as well as his WD at the Honda Classic, failure to reach the round of 32 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and T-45 at the Shell Houston Open.
Perhaps, unlike WGC-Cadillac and Texas and the Players before it, this is the top-10 finish that can restore McIlroy's top form moving forward.
"Yeah, I played the best golf of the week today," McIlroy said Sunday of his performance at Oak Hill. "I hit some really good drives and really good iron shots. Didn't quite putt as well as I did the first three days, but really, really happy with my game going into the next few weeks."
Will Sunday's comeback cap that of the season? The FedEx Cup will provide the answer.