McIlroy surge sets up British Masters showdown
Let’s hope Rory McIlroy isn’t superstitious – surely he won’t want to push his luck?
The four-time major champion admitted he’d ‘warmed up’ for his third round of the British Masters with a Tyneside curry on Friday night.
Needing a low one to force his way into the fray at Close House, McIlroy joked he had “a different number in my head” when he hit his first shot.
But 64 was the result and it’s a round that has helped the Northern Irishman suddenly surge into final day contention in Newcastle.
You don’t have to look very far to find McIlroy on the fairways – you just follow the noise. You hear the roars long before you see the crowds.
And what crowds they are – thousands of fans lining tees, fairways and greens to cheer him on. Lee Westwood may be the home favourite but McIlroy is still the sentimental choice for many through the gates.
He fed off the energy on Saturday.
“It’s really nice to play in front of crowds like this,” he said. “The last couple of tournaments I have been off pretty early on the weekends and I’ve had 50 people following me – where there’s thousands out there.
“It’s nice to get into that sort of environment.”
McIlroy certainly gave them something to cheer about.
He birdied the third, chipped in at the fifth and picked up another shot at the very next hole. When he collected a fourth birdie at the driveable ninth, he’d gone out in 31.
Into the top ?
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“I just didn’t make many mistakes in the first few holes,” McIlroy added. “I went out with the mindset of fairways and greens and to get off to a solid start.
“The chip on five was a nice bonus and to birdie six and be three under was a bit different than how it started the last couple of days.
“Once you get off to a good start like that you are feeling a bit better about yourself. I hit some good shots and gave myself a lot of chances.”
He moved to nine under at the par 5 13th and then made a slippery downhill putt on his penultimate hole as he continued to climb the leaderboard – much to the excitement of his galleries.
McIlroy said earlier this week he was unconcerned about the prospect of finishing this season without a win.
Now he’s in the mix, though, things have changed.
He admitted: “You get yourself into contention and you start to think about these things. It would be nice. Hopefully I am in the last half a dozen groups tomorrow and it will be nice to feel that again. The support I am getting out there is tremendous.”
But with crowds turning out in numbers – despite some inclement weather – isn’t it a shame there aren’t more tournaments in the UK?
“It is but it’s money. We’ve got BMW who are a good partner and they do Wentworth and Sky Sports are doing here. It’s hard to get the sponsors to roll in with four, five or six million a year to fund these events.
“That’s why the tour goes elsewhere and goes to places that have money. It’s better for the tour, better for the players. It’s the way of the world but I wish there were more tournaments here.”
Maybe the prospect of a Sunday shootout with Westwood would make them reconsider. It hasn’t looked likely all week, but McIlroy’s third act has suddenly made it a real possibility.
Just stay off the curry.