McIlroy close to putting it all together
Rory McIlroy plays from the sixth tee during World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club's South Course. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy plays from the sixth tee during World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club's South Course. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It's not quite like the summer of 2014 but Rory McIlroy is quietly building up a head of steam ahead of the season's final major.

Four years ago he won The Open, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA in successive starts and while he was second at Carnoustie last month, he can still complete a double over the next eight days that could put him back on the road to becoming world No 1 again.

Three strokes behind World No 3 Justin Thomas, tied for second with Ian Poulter on 11-under par, McIlroy has made just two bogeys all week.

All he wants to do now is make a birdie or two more per round and he will take some stopping, both in tonight's final round in Akron and in the US PGA at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis next week.

"Best I've hit it off the tee, and probably the best I've hit it overall," McIlroy said after his third round 67. 

"I hit some better wedge shots out there, which was good to see. Wish I could have converted a couple more of the chances, but it sort of all evened out. I holed a couple really nice putts for par in the middle of the back nine, so happy with that.

"The course is firming up a little bit. The greens are still receptive, but it's definitely playing a little bit tougher today than it has done the previous two days. Happy with everything.

“It's a great opportunity to test what I've been trying to work on this week, test it under the gun on a Sunday when you have a chance to win. I'm excited for it."

Ranked first for scrambling and driving distance, second for strokes gained from the tee and seventh from tee-to-green, he's also ninth for putting and looked like he's close to his peak.

"I think it's going to be great prep for next week as well, so I'll obviously be fully engaged to try to win this tournament but knowing that if I play well tomorrow, it puts me in the right frame of mind going into next week as well," said McIlroy, who could move to world No 2 with his second win at Firestone.

“I mean, even when I'm getting myself out of position, I'm able to get myself back in position and get it up and down or hole a crucial putt for par. Yeah, it's been good. The more you can limit the mistakes around here, the better. I'm just probably going to need a couple more birdies tomorrow than I had today to have a chance.”

Grouped with Thomas and Tiger Woods at Bellerive, today's final two ball is a chance for McIlroy to test himself against the reigning US PGA champion, who also shot 67 in round three as Poulter shot 70.

Another former US PGA champion Jason Day is another shot back on ten under after his third-round 69 with Marc Leishman and Kyle Stanley tied for fifth on nine under, one shot ahead of Spain's Jon Rahm and American Rickie Fowler

Paul Dunne is tied for 63rd on four-over after a third round 75 alongside Zach Johnson at a course where mistakes from the tee are punished severely.

The Greystones man's six bogeys yesterday all came after he missed the fairway or green with his tee shots.

As for Tiger Woods, he also failed in his mission to get the ball in play from the tee and a three-over 73 left him tied 28th on three-under and playing for the minor placings today.

Back issues were not a problem.

"I'm fine,'' he told reporters when asked about his health. "Just played like crap.''

Due to play four of the next five weeks, the physical challenges he faces are clearly important.

"It's mainly just recovering,'' Woods said. "I've got to recover for tomorrow. That's one of the challenges as we age, is trying to recover for the next day. It's got a lot harder. 

"Before I used to go run three, four miles to cool off. That's no longer happening anymore. So it's just about getting ready for tomorrow, and then from there, trying to build all my energy into Thursday of next week."