Rory McIlroy can’t wait to return to action in three weeks’ time so he can erase the bad memories of a disappointing US PGA performance and begin racking up wins that would turn a memorable season into a sensational one.
While he confessed that it was a major mistake to hit from behind a tree root on the third hole on the opening day, the US Open champion pointed to his poor putting and not his injured right arm as the real reason behind his failure to challenge for the final major of the season.
After three-putting three times in a third round 74 that sent him sliding towards the bottom of the leaderboard alongside Padraig Harrington (75) on seven over par, the 22-year old was hopeful that rest and treatment will allow him to recover fully from a pronator muscle strain and make his comeback in the Omega European Masters in Crans Montana at the start of next month.
“I want to try and finish as high up in The Race to Dubai,” McIlroy said of his ambitions for the remainder of 2011. “It looks as if Luke Donald has it sealed up. He’s got to going well again today.
“It would be great to win a couple more times because I want to try to end the season well. Even though I won one tournament, which was a major, I still want to win a few more times to call this season a success.”
Donald dropped three shots in his last three holes to post a 68 and finish on one under as 2001 champion David Toms (65), Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (66) and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson (67) set the clubhouse target at two under.
Despite playing with heavy strapping on his right arm, McIlroy had high hopes of making a weekend charge but he went the other way instead as he lost all confidence on the greens.
After three-putting for a double bogey six at the first, he three-putted again for bogey the third and followed a bogey at the fifth with another three-putt bogey at the eighth to go out in 40.
“It’s on the greens where I haven’t been good this week,” he said. “I think I had three three-putts today and three three-putts yesterday and a couple of three-putts on Thursday.
“That’s what I did so well at Congressional. I didn’t have a three-putt until the 71st hole. If you want to win these things, you can’t throw away shots like that.”
He came home in one under par, following birdies at the 13th and 14th with a double bogey after a visit to water at the 15th before hitting a 360 yard drive up the last and a 124 yard wedge to five feet to finish with a birdie.
He admitted that his questionable decision to hit from behind a tree root on Thursday was a major mistake and it remains to be seen if he will recover in time to tee it up in Switzerland.
“Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the right thing to do,” he said: “Coming in after a solid week at Akron last week and feeling as if I was hitting it well, I’ll think about that shot on Thursday for a while.
“You learn more from your mistakes than do you doing anything else. If I had of pulled the shot off on Thursday and everything would have been fine, then I probably would have said, yeah, I’ll do it again. But if I was in that position again, maybe the 23 year-old Rory McIlroy wouldn’t do it.”
McIlroy finished the day 14 shots behind Americans Brendan Steele (66) and Jason Dufner (68) who lead by a stroke from compatriot Keegan Bradley (69) with Scott Verplank (69) three off the pace on four under.
No fewer than 16 players are within six shots of the lead with world No 5 Steve Stricker only four behind.