Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy is among the favourites. Image: PGA TOUR website

McIlroy eyes redemption at Memorial

With 22 players within three of the lead going into the last round of the Memorial Tournament, most are watching Rory McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy is among the favourites. Image: PGA TOUR website

With 22 players within three of the lead going into the last round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, most are watching Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy (70), one of three co-leaders with Si Woo Kim (71) and David Lipsky (72), is clearly first among equals.

McIlroy chasing first win here

A 23-time PGA TOUR winner and the only player to win the FedExCup three times, McIlroy has had to embrace dialing it back off the tee at Muirfield Village, where pinch points in the fairways take driver out of his hands.

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In baseball terms, he’s like a fastball specialist suddenly falling back on a mix of curveballs, sinkers, and off-speed stuff.

So far, he’s succeeding in his 12th start at Muirfield Village, where his best is a T4 in 2016.

“The big thing for me around here with how penal it is off the tee is just getting the ball in play,” he said.

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“So, throttling back, hitting a lot of 3-woods, irons off tees. Using the driver sort of sporadically.”

Viktor Hovland (69) and Wells Fargo Championship winner Wyndham Clark (70) look like the most dangerous contenders in a group of five players at 5 under par, just one off the lead.

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Unlike many, Hovland has yet to make worse than bogey this week.

Patrick Cantlay (74) and Hideki Matsuyama (75), who have three Memorial titles between them, were only two back, as were Keegan Bradley, who made the cut on the number but shot the best round of the day (65), and Collin Morikawa (68).

Strong PGA TOUR field challenging

But it’s world No. 3 McIlroy who finds himself with his clearest look at the trophy. No. 1 Scottie Scheffler shot 68 and will be five back, playing Sunday with No. 2 Jon Rahm (74, four back). They’ll go off at 10:55 a.m., two hours and 40 minutes ahead of the leaders. Surely they have too many people ahead of them.

McIlroy doesn’t have to make up any ground, which on this course is a good thing.

“Just hanging in there,” he said of his game plan.

He hasn’t won on the PGA TOUR since THE CJ CUP in South Carolina last October, and has been clawing his way back from a mini-slump that saw him miss cuts at THE PLAYERS Championship and the Masters Tournament. He did little more than make it to the weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, where he’s won three times.

But one of the most talented players in the game signaled he might be on his way back with a top-10 finish at the recent PGA Championship, and pronounced his game in much better shape still at the Memorial. He may simply be due. He also allowed that he has “quite a bit of experience” in high-pressure situations, unlike a handful of others on the leaderboard.

Then again, he said in the next breath, Muirfield Village is playing so hard as to wreck anyone’s chances with one misstep.

“This golf course makes you a little uncomfortable,” McIlroy said. “Everyone’s going to be feeling like that.”

Added Bradley, whose 65 included a bogey on 18, “There’s zero room for error out here.”

Almost every player has already succumbed to either a disaster or a rocky stretch. McIlroy triple-bogeyed the last hole of his first round, and in the third round Cantlay tripled the sixth hole while Matsuyama had three bogeys and a triple in five holes.

He was also in some discomfort with his neck.

“Mid-round it was difficult, it kind of stiffened up a little bit,” Matsuyama said through a translator, “but at the end of the round it started feeling good and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I need to practice a little bit before I get treatment, but half as much as usual.” (He hit a few lefthanded, so clearly was feeling better.)


Hideki Matsuyama
Hideki Matsuyama fell back on Saturday. Image: File