RORY MCILROY rode a rollercoaster ride at Rochester as he emerged from a twist-and-drop third round still clinging to his hopes of ending a nine-year majors dry spell.
The four-time Major winner, who hasn’t had success at this level since 2014, enjoyed some exciting highlights early in Round 3 of the USPGA Championship before snapping back down to earth with an ugly hat-trick of bogeys.
But with three birdies in the back nine he was back on track, only a fourth bogey on the 17th putting the brakes on.
At one under par, major number five is still within reach — even if he has to decouple from Justin Thomas’ playbook after winning the USPGA by seven shots last year.
McIlroy’s Ryder Cup teammate Tommy Fleetwood also had a busy day and went to bed dreaming of repeating his exploits in upstate New York five years ago.
Fleetwood had the best final round score of any major with a final round of 63 at the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills – just sixty miles from here, across Long Island Sound.
The Southport star also hit one of the best rounds seen at Oak Hill this year, two under par 68, despite being hit by torrential rain on all 18 holes.
Fleetwood, 32, often gives the impression he’s at his best when the going gets tough in the majors, and he backed up that theory with another fighting performance.
But with a margin over par, he knows he has to dig a lot deeper today to even go a step further than his runner-up finish at the 2018 US Open.
He said: “Another 63 would be nice, wouldn’t it? If you would offer me to take this and not move a muscle tomorrow? Just take my chances that a bottom six would be good enough.
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“But look, I’m proud of the way I played today. When we were outside it was raining relentlessly making the track just brutal. It played so long and the rough was thick and wet.
“I’ve had a couple of second places in the majors now and a couple of fourth places, so I know how to get the most out of my game in these circumstances. Hopefully I can do that again in the finals.”
McIlroy had to catch up after poor starts on each of the first two days, but this time he seemed like he meant business.
He missed just one fairway on the first six holes and hit excellent shots on the first two par 3s.
The world No. 3 converted birdie putts from about six feet on both short holes to move up to sixth place with two under par, just three strokes behind 36-hole leaders Scottie Scheffler, Corey Conners and Victor Hovland.
But things began to go awry on the dreaded sixth hole when it was bogeyed in the first two days – the toughest hole in major championship history.
McIlroy had to sink a six-foot ball to avoid a double. But it seemed like the wind had left his sails and that impression was confirmed by more bogeys at eight and nine o’clock.
But he wasn’t the only player who found Oak Hill’s toughest holes extremely taxing in wet conditions.
When the rain finally let up after the last group played seven holes, world No. 2 Scheffler, who was considered the hot favorite before the start of Round 3, had tripled her bogey count for the tournament.
He dropped just two shots over the first 36 holes but returned four over this stretch of seven holes while playing partner Conners went deep and played these holes a hole under par.
But as the umbrellas were cleared away, the rain-soaked course began to offer more and more birdies – bad news for Fleetwood and fellow countryman Tyrrell Hatton, who also made up plenty of ground with a one-under par 69.