CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It might take another 61 to get defending champion Rory McIlroy back into contention for Sunday’s final round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
McIlroy’s uneven season continued this week at a course he loves. Two birdies on the closing four holes helped him salvage a 73 to finish 54 holes at one under par at Quail Hollow Country Club. He was eight shots back when he finished with the leaders still facing the entire back nine.
Even Rory, who fired an 11-under 61 in his 2015 victory here last year, acknowledged that another 61 might not be enough or realistic.
“That would be nice,” he said. “With the conditions of the course, I’m not sure that’s going to be possible but something in the mid 60s would be decent.”
McIlroy needed a quick start in Saturday’s third round to move up and got the opposite, instead. He was two over par through four holes.
“It was playing tough, I mean really tough,” he said. “I came back well on the last four holes to get back into red figures for the tournament. It’s really tricky out there. I’m maybe a little too far back but at least I can go out there and give it my all and try to post a good score.”
McIlroy hasn’t had any facet of his game working really well. He hit fewer than half the fairways through three rounds (20 of 42) and only 32 of 54 greens in regulation. In strokes gained putting, he ranked 121st and 74th the first two days. He did have on highlight on the greens, holing a 79-foot birdie putt on the 17th green.
“Yeah, that was all set up by the tee shot, obviously,” he joked. “I don’t know if I got the wind wrong or I just hit it too hard.” He knew the putt was going to get close and then, “It just dropped in there,” he said. “You probably saw a bit of a wry smile there. It was a bonus to finish like that.”
He still can’t put his finger on what’s holding him back but he seems headed for another disappointing week.
“I just haven’t been playing as efficient as I could,” he said. “I feel like everything is sort of there, it’s just a matter of putting it all together, and for the most part this year I haven’t been able to do that. There have been spells where it’s been good and I’ve had a couple of chances to win this year, but it’s a work in progress. I’m trying to stay patient, as patient as possible, but there are definitely times on the course when I get quite frustrated.”