SANDWICH, England (AP) — Rory McIlroy knows a thing or two about records, setting a bunch of them on his way to a stirring eight-stroke victory at the U.S. Open last month.
Nine shots off the pace in the British Open, he is pointing to another record while hoping for a major comeback.
“What did Paul Lawrie come back from? Ten shots?” McIlroy asked rhetorically, referring to the Scot’s final-day recovery at Carnoustie in 1999. “Well, it’s been done before so I’ll just have to keep the hope.”
McIlroy’s Congressional clinic seemed like a dim and distant memory as he trudged his way through the final holes of a rain-soaked third round at Royal St. George’s on Saturday.
A double-bogey 7 at No. 14, coming after a nasty kick right off the undulating fairway sent his drive out of bounds, left McIlroy down. Battered by the nasty weather, he slumped off the 18th green to sign for a 4-over 74.
McIlroy is a daunting nine shots behind leader Darren Clarke heading into the final day, when more severe weather in the forecast.
“If the conditions are decent, I could see myself going out and shooting maybe 4 or 5 under, and getting in the hunt,” McIlroy said, still attempting to sound positive.
“If the conditions are similar to what they were this morning, then it’s going to be very tough.”
It wasn’t just that drive on No. 14 that he lamented.
For three straight rounds, McIlroy has played in the day’s toughest weather, coming to a head Saturday when heavy rain and gusting winds upward of 30 mph arrived as he was walking up the fairway on No. 2.
Out came the thicker weather gear, including padded mitts between shots.
“It seems this tournament more so than any other, you need to get a good draw and it hasn’t really worked out for me this week,” he said. “It was really tough out there this morning, and I felt for the first 13 holes, to get through those in 2 over was a pretty decent effort.”
Then came the par-5 No. 14, which troubled most of the 71-strong field on Saturday.
“I mean, you’ve done so well for 13 holes to keep yourself in it – you’ve got half of Kent on your left and you hit it right. It was a bit disappointing. A tough one to take,” he said.
“The moment I hit it, I thought it was out of bounds, but then it started to hang on and I thought it could be OK. I think it bounced in bounds and then went out.”
If McIlroy doesn’t engineer a miraculous recovery, there’s no doubt where his allegiances would lie.
“It’s fantastic,” McIlroy said of Clarke’s surprise run at Sandwich. “He’s waited a long time to win that major and it would be great if this week was the week where he could get his first one.”