Rory McIlroy didn’t quite manage to keep a big number off his card but despite an early double bogey he bounced back in encouraging style and made nine birdies in a seven under 64 in the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.
“I played pretty similar to the way I did the first two days, I just scored better,” explained McIlroy, who needed just 22 putts Sunday after reaching 12 of 18 greens in regulation. “I took advantage of some good shots in close, holed a few more putts and birdied the holes that you need to birdie out there, the par 5s and the short par 4s.
“If you didn’t shoot 66 today, you were sort of moving backward. It was so soft and so scoreable.”
Having just made the cut on Friday following a double bogey seven at this final hole, McIlroy made an early birdie two at his second hole but then double bogeyed his fifth (the 14th) when he pushed his drive deep into trouble, chipped back into play, overshot the green and failed to get up and down.
Having started the day tied for 67th, he could have been forgiven for taking some time to take stock but he immediately birdied the par-four 15th from six feet, missed a six footer for a birdie two at the 16th but then birdied the next four holes.
His scoring exploits were not unusual on a soft course that was torn to shreds by the field with Sergio garcia carding a 65 to lead by two strokes from Henrik Stenson (66) on 19 under with Graham DeLaet (62) and Steve Stricker (63) tied for third on 16 under.
McIlroy holed from 14 feet at the 17th, tapped in from 18 inches for birdie at the 18th, rolled in an eight footer at the first and chipped dead at the second to get to four under for his round.
Clearly showing signs that he is getting closer and closer to his best form, he pitched to 10 feet at the driveable fourth for another birdie, got up and down for par at the fifth and sixth and then birdied the 600-yard seventh with a fine chip.
With Caroline Wozniacki watching on site following her US Open defeat, he hit a wedge to six feet at the ninth to set up his ninth birdie of the day.
Bar the mistake at the fifth, it was just the kind of round he needed and while it leaves him tied for 29th on eight under, 11 strokes adrift of Garcia, he has improved his projected FedEx Cup position to 33rd from 36th starting the week.
Making the Top 30 who contest the Tour Championship following the conclusion of the BMW Championship in Illinois in a fortnight’s time is the goal. But ideally, he wants to be in the Top-5 in the standings when he gets there so that a win at East Lake guarantees him the $10m FedEx Cup bonus.
“I think we calculated these two tournaments, it was either two top 17s or one top four was what I needed to get into the,” McIlroy said. “Obviously it helps to get myself back into the middle of the pack here.”
That will require another low round in Boston on Monday and a win in the BMW Championship. But he’s certainly not a millon miles away from that kind of form.
As for Graeme McDowell, the Portrush man made three birdies and a bogey in a two under 69 that saw him slip two spots to tied 47th on six under.
The world No 9 needs a good finishing round to boost his chances of making it to Atlanta for the first time as he’s now projected to fall four spots to 48th in the standings.
As for Tiger Woods, he shot a one over 72, his worst score in his last 10 rounds at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“I didn’t play very well today,” said Woods, who is tied 47th with McDowell and others “I didn’t hit it well and didn’t make anything.”
He added: “The course is gettable, that’s for sure. You could be very aggressive and not have to worry about anything. Just one of those days I had a bad day at the wrong time.”
The day began with a delay of three hours and 29 minutes because of the threat of lightning.
According to PGA Tour.com: “A total of 14 players had teed off — but only 12 had posted scores — when play was originally suspended at 8:46 a.m. due to a dangerous weather situation. No one had completed more than 5 holes [McIlroy had played three in one under par].
“Tournament officials decided to wipe the slate clean, then re-pair and re-start the third round with players going off two tees in threesomes beginning at 12:15 p.m.”
Placing was allowed, leading to a rash of low scores on a soft golf course.