WATCH - Rory McIlroy came agonisingly close to a 210-yard albatross last night
Published 05/09/2016 | 02:30
Rory McIlroy took a significant step towards exorcising his putting demons with an impressive performance on the greens in round three of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston yesterday.
McIlroy, who is investing much time, effort and money in linking up with putting guru Phil Kenyon, got some earlier than expected returns as he shot 66 for nine-under par to lie six shots off the lead held by England's Paul Casey.
Casey gave an immaculate display of ball-striking and will be hard to beat in today's final round.
The English former Ryder Cup star filed a 66 for a three shot lead ahead of left-hander Brian Harman of the USA.
Smylie Kaufman, Kevin Chappell, and the US PGA champion Jimmy Walker were all on 11-under.
Despite Casey's eagle on the last, the tournament, which starts early today due to anticipated bad weather can hardly begin soon enough for McIlroy. He is ready for the challenge posed by Casey.
The smile was back on the Northern Irishman's face as he reflected on a stirring finish to his 66, lipping out for an albatross two being delighted to 'settle' for an eagle three on the 530 yards, par-5 18th.
Rory McIlroy ... 210 yards ... for albatross ...— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 4, 2016
McIlroy had seen his playing partner Harris English land his ball very close to the pin on the last, and after backing off his ball twice due to the swirling wind, he struck a 4-iron perfectly from 212 yards.
The ball flew sweetly off the clubface and arced down right on target. It actually rolled across the left lip of the hole before settling just three feet from the cup.
He knocked it in for his eagle three and gained some consolation for a double-bogey six on the 12th hole.
Speaking to Sky Sports, McIlroy said: "It was a great way to finish the round especially after the six at 12. I felt like I could shoot something similar or just a little bit better than I did yesterday and with that finish I was able to do that.
"It's tricky out there. It's windy conditions. Hopefully the guys don't get too far in front and that I have a chance tomorrow."
McIlroy revealed that one of the changes he has made was to his grip on the putter.
"It's a little bit more in the fingers, right hand a little bit more on top of the grip.
"I started to roll in a few putts, and when you do that your confidence builds, and you feel like you can go out and shoot scores like I did today," he said.
A tally of 26 putts in his five-under par round testified to that confidence building up for McIlroy.
He had started with a bogey five on the first hole, but then it was a case of 'hold on to your hat, here we go' as he powered on to claim five birdies - four of them in a row from holes five through eight - to turn in 32.
The six on the 12th was cancelled out by a birdie on 15 and that epic eagle at the last.
The wind increased in strength as the Boston area got a taste of Hurricane Hermine which had struck in the Eastern seaboard, and the later groups had to factor that into their shot-making as the day wore on.
"It's difficult. It's probably a two club wind anyway. When it gusts it gets up to three, and with the greens being as quick as they are, and some of the hole locations, you really have to concentrate on every shot out there," said McIlroy.
Meanwhile, in European action Sweden's Alex Noren took the Omega European Masters title, defeating Scott Hend of Australia on the first playoff hole at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland.
Noren, the recent winner of the Scottish Open, shot 65 for a 17 under-par 263.
Hend shot 66 to tie the Swede who birdied the first extra hole for his victory, his sixth on Tour and his second in this tournament. "I've never won coming from behind or won in a play-off on the European Tour, so that makes it more amazing," said Noren.
England's Andrew 'Beef' Johnston was third at 14 under, two shots clear of Lee Westwood.
Some of the scoring by European Ryder Cup players will keep captain Darren Clarke very happy, particularly the form of Westwood, the only one of his three wild card picks playing in the Alps.
Westwood shot 63, seven-under par, to finish joint fourth.
Matthew Fitzpatrick closed with 64 for joint seventh, and Danny Willett's 64 got him to tied-12.
Kevin Phelan was best of the Irish in the Challenge Tour's Cordon Golf Open in Pleneuf, France, shooting 69 for a share of 41st.
Spain's Alvaro Velasco rounded off the tournament with a 62 to take the title on -12 (268), a shot ahead of joint second Alexander Knappe of Germany and Oscar Stark of Sweden.
Deutsche Bank Championship
Live, Sky Sports 4,12.30pm