Rory McIlroy is six shots off the lead with a round to go at the US PGA. Photo: Anthony Powter/www.golffile.ieWatch out. Rory McIlroy has that Quail Hollow feeling again after he produced a sensational birdie-birdie finish to give himself an outside chance of US PGA glory at Oak Hill.

The defending champion began the day nine shots behind overnight leader Jason Dufner on level par.

But with his confidence on the rise he birdied the 13th from eight feet, holed a 50-foot bomb on the 17th before chipping in for an incredible birdie three at the 18th for a three under 67 that left him six shots behind Jim Furyk.

The American birdied the tough 17th by hitting a hybrid 240 yards to 20 feet and then got up and down for a brave par at the last for a 68 and a one stroke lead over Dufner (71) on nine under with Swedes Henrik Stenson ((69) and Jonas Blixt (66) two and three back respectively.

McIlroy’s finish gave him the kind of adrenalin rush he’s been missing almost all season as he almost ended up in a rubbish bin with his drive to the last, punched a 205 yard four iron under trees through the back of the green and then chipped in for a sensational birdie.

“I knew they were going to toughen the golf course up today,” said McIlroy, who was tied with Lee Westwood (68) on three under and will partner the Englishman in the fourth last group today. “I sort of thought two 65s would still have a chance, so ten under par could be the target tomorrow.

“But the way the conditions are with the swirling wind, it’s tricky out there. I felt like I still had a chance.”

Jim Furyk didn’t get up and down from the bunker at the 15th but made amends with a birdie at the 17th and a par save at the last. Picture: Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ieMcIlroy’s closing birdies came at the two toughest holes on the course - the 509-yard par four 17th and 497 yard 18th - and he reckons they could prove crucial in the long run.

He said: “I hit a great drive up 17 and still had 225 to the pin. I hit a good one. I mean, I’m not short.

“On the last hole, it’s playing so tough into the wind, as well, pretty tricky little pin position there. I probably made up at least three, three and a half shots on those last two holes.”

After making four birdies in his last eight holes to make the cut on Friday, McIlroy is having flashbacks of a similar performance to win his first US title in Charlotte three years ago.

In 2010 he eagled his last hole to make the cut in the Quail Hollow Championship on the mark, then closed with rounds of 66 and 62 to win by four and become the youngest PGA Tour winner since Tiger Woods.

“Every time I’m in that position I just think back to Quail Hollow a few years ago and what I did the weekend there,” McIlroy said. “It gives me a bit confidence knowing that I’ve been in that position before and I’ve been able to win.

Jason Dufner putts on the 15th in the third round. Picture: Eoin Clarke“I know this is a major championship and it’s a bit different, but I felt good enough about my game that I could go out there and post a good one today and at least give myself a chance going into tomorrow.”

The Holywood star looked good from the start as he opened with five pars, then birdied the 175-yard sixth from 15 feet.

He missed four footer for birdie at the eighth and dropped his only shot of the day at the 10th when he came up short in two and missed from five feet for par.

His finish was sensational but it came as no huge surprise to the world No 3, who saw signs that his game was coming around in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, where he finished 27th.

“It started last week,” he said. “I had 24 putts for 71 on Friday. Pretty soon I had 25 putts for 69 on Saturday. So my short game has been really, really good.

“It was just a matter of trying to get a long game in shape. I wouldn’t say that that was my best ball striking round out there by any means, but I got it up and down when I needed to and that was the most important thing.”

His birdie at the last was spectacular as he ended up near some bins and had to take free relief but still faced a shot from the trees.

“I had 175 to the front. So I just tried to keep a four-iron down as much as I could and hit it as hard as I could.

“It pitched right on the front edge and obviously just ran a little bit through. But couldn’t have pitched a more perfect pitch.”

Believing his game is coming back in the nick of time, McIlroy confessed that he is feeling a tingle of excitement again.

“Yeah, it’s getting there. It was good to feel the sort of rush again,” he said. “I felt it a bit in San Antonio this year when I was second to Martin Laird.

“You know, I had a good chance to win there, and I holed some pretty good putts coming down the stretch which didn’t matter the end. It was great. It was great to feel that.

“Making a birdie on 17 is like an eagle and then to follow it up with another on the last is even better.”

Seven under for his last 25 holes, he added: “To play like that on this golf course and do what I needed to do yesterday just to make the cut, and then to go out and play the way I did today, yeah, I mean, it’s been a good stretch of holes.

“I’ve got another 18 to play, and hopefully I can just keep playing the way I am.”