PONTE VEDRA BEACH– Rory McIlroy is in a familiar position on the leaderboard. After shooting a third round two under 70, McIlroy is one back of 54 hole leader Jon Rahm. With a course like TPC Sawgrass, where fluctuations on the leaderboard are unequivocal, it puts the 14 time PGA Tour winner in prime position to complete a comeback.
“I’m in a good position,” said McIlroy after his round. “I thought after the start today that to play the last 16 holes in 4-under par with no bogeys was a good effort.”
Rahm, Fleetwood In Contention Alongside McIlroy
Heading into the final round of the PLAYERS Championship, there are 10 golfers within five strokes of the lead. McIlroy, sitting at 14-under, is joined by Tommy Fleetwood, who also shot a third round 70. Leading the field in strokes gained: off the tee (+5.34), he would play his last 11 holes 5-under after going 3-over the first seven holes. Fleetwood is searching for his first win on the PGA Tour, and is the highest ranked golfer to not have a victory in America.
“At the end of the day, winning is very difficult,” stated Fleetwood. “You have to take the positives all the time about how consistent your golf is. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully, it’ll come.”
But Fleetwood and McIlroy are looking up to the young Spaniard Jon Rahm, trying to win his first PGA Tour tournament with the 54 hole lead. With five top 10s this season, Rahm leads the field in strokes gained: tee to green (+10.6) and strokes gained: approach the green (+8.94). With seven birdies and one eagle on the scorecard, Rahm is eager for the opportunity to claim the PLAYERS Championship tomorrow.
“It would be absolutely amazing to name yourself a PLAYERS champion,” said Rahm. “It’s definitely one of those events that they consider to get you in the Hall of Fame. It’s career defining. There are very few select players that get to win here and only a very few number that have gotten to do it more than once, so it shows that to win out here you need to play really, really good golf, so it would be an incredible win if I get to do it.”
McIlroy Looking for Win After String of Successful Results
Rahm is well aware of Rory McIlroy’s capabilities. With his explosive driving distance off the tee, he can take advantage of leaving himself short approach shots to the hole.
“Well, it’s Rory McIlroy,” stated Rahm. “I mean he was No. 1 in the world at the age of 22, and he’s a four-time major champion, so he definitely knows how to get the job done. He hasn’t done it since Arnold Palmer last year, so I know he’s going to come out wanting to do it, especially being THE PLAYERS Championship, an event where you need to play really well.”
But Rory’s driving accuracy was not exquisite in the third round. Converting only four fairways, it was tied for the fewest in the field. It would be the 25th round at the PLAYERS Championship this week where a player hit five or fewer fairways. The 24 other players, averaged 74.8. McIlroy shot 70, showcasing his ability to craft skilled shots.
In five of the six starts this season, McIlroy has top-10 finishes. It is the seventh time in the last 11 rounds where Rory has finished in the top 2 of the leaderboard. From 2013 to 2016 at The PLAYERS, McIlroy has four-consecutive Top-15 finishes.
The only thing missing? Victory. It’s been a fact that McIlroy has struggled with; trying to put all aspects of his game for a successful final round. But with his position in the penultimate group, McIlroy is confident tomorrow can be finally good fortune.
“It would have been nice to pick up a couple in the last few holes, but I’m still right there going into tomorrow,” says McIlroy.