Relaxed Rory makes a move as Tiger's putting lets him down

Relaxed Rory makes a move as Tiger's putting lets him down
 Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy has found a new way to deal with high expectations and frustration in his final event before the US Open - just pretend it's a practice round.

As Bryson DeChambeau shot 66 to take a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay (66), Kyle Stanley (70) and Joaquin Niemann (70) into the final round of the Memorial Tournament, McIlroy shot an eight-under 64 by treating it like a walk in the park.

"My attitude was I'm just happy to be here, I'm happy to get another couple of days of playing, and I really just treated it like practice," said McIlroy said, who followed a frustrating 70 on Friday with six birdies and an eagle in a bogey-free 64, moving him from the cut line to tied 11th on eight-under.

"Just threw the tournament out the window, go and try and work on what you've been working on on the range, and go from there."

Scores

Ranked fifth for strokes gained from tee to green, he had just 26 putts and did not dwell too much on the three chances that got away after following a frustrating par five at the 15th (where he had just seven iron in hand for his second shot) by making par saves on the last three holes.

"There was a lot of good stuff," said McIlroy. "My wedge play was very good, I drove the ball better, I was more committed to the swings I was trying to make. 

"Then when I did get myself out of position I made three good pars on 16, 17 and 18. So it was all there today. I missed a couple of chances on 14 and 15 and on 9 as well, I guess. But apart from that, it was all pretty good.

"I practised for about an hour and a half yesterday [Friday] on the range, trying a few things, and getting a little bit more comfortable with my swing. And today it was just an opportunity to go out and test it and see how it held up. 

"So I'll try and do the same thing. I'm probably going to be five or six shots back going into tomorrow anyway, so just keep, put the tournament out of your mind and just try to play a good round of golf."

But with Tiger Woods (68) just five behind and a relaxed McIlroy a shot further back, it promises to be a fascinating final round at Muirfield Village, where the tee times have been brought forward to avoid inclement weather.

Woods went out in 31 and held the lead at one point before his putting let him down on the back nine and he three-putted the 16th and 18th for bogeys.

“I know I shot 68 today but, again, that's probably the highest score I could have possibly shot,” Woods said. “I played really, really well. I played beautifully, actually. Had total control of what I was doing out there and just didn't finish it off.

“I am definitely not taking advantage of how well I'm hitting it. As I said earlier, this is probably the highest scores I could have shot. I've shot, what could have easily [been] 62 or 63 yesterday and could have easily shot 63 or 64 without doing much today. I hit the ball well enough to, shooting in the low 60s could have been pretty easy if I had just had putted normally.”

Ranked 119th in the 120-player field for strokes-gained putting at halfway, he was 80th of 81 after round three.

“Yeah, I was releasing the putter beautifully early," said Woods, who has missed five putts of five feet or less. "Just getting the putts to turn over. My toe was moving nicely. And just didn't do it at the end.”

Masters champion Patrick Reed said Woods was playing "scary good" and when asked if his game was good enough to win after a five-year drought, he bristled.

"Well, I was at 11-under par, and I had wasted a bunch of shots the last two days and I was 4-over par in the first round, so you do the math," he said. 

The long and the short of it is that Woods is ranked first from tee to green and poorly for putting.

But given his long layoff and the fact he was four-over after seven holes on Thursday, he's clearly trending in the right direction.

"I could have easily shot myself out of it," he said of his early play in round one. "But I gave myself a chance and then lo and behold I do what I did yesterday and today for most of the day it was pretty darn good."

Shane Lowry's erratic run of form continued when he carded a one-over 73 to go into the final round tied for 64th.

One under for his round after 11 holes, he hit his tee shot into the water at the dangerous 12th and made a double bogey five before finishing with six par.