Monday 18 December 2017

Rory McIlroy rediscovers spark to regain some ground at the Scottish Open

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tees off at the 7th during day three of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tees off at the 7th during day three of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen

Rory McIlroy declared himself happy with his Open preparations after bouncing back from a familiar Friday failing in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

McIlroy continued a worrying trend of following a superb opening round with a terrible second one at Royal Aberdeen, shooting a course-record 64 on Thursday and a seven-over-par 78 on Friday.

The 25-year-old responded with a more sedate 68 on Saturday to finish three under par and was happy to take the positives from the week as a whole ahead of the year's third major championship at Hoylake.

"I've shot 64 and a 68 on this golf course, which are two really good scores," the former world number one said. "Yesterday was just one of those days where nothing really went right. I couldn't get any momentum.

"It would be nice to shoot another good one tomorrow, but I feel good with my game and I saw enough positives in there to give me confidence going into the Open.

"I didn't get off to the best of starts, being one over through two holes when you are looking to be one under, but after that I played really solid golf and didn't put myself in much trouble.

"I feel much more prepared going into next week. Coming in here I was hitting these shots that I needed into the wind on the range and hitting them perfectly, but today I hit a couple that weren't so good. Hitting them in practice and hitting them under the gun are two completely different things and being able to do that over the past three days and tomorrow as well can only help going into next week.

"It's just about getting rid of these bad stretches of holes or these bad second rounds or whatever it is. If I can get rid of that, then there's no reason why I can't go next week and really contend."

Scotland's Craig Lee had set the early clubhouse target on six under par after a flawless 66, the 37-year-old having dropped just one shot in his last 40 holes despite the windy conditions.

Lee, who held a two-shot lead going into the final round in Abu Dhabi in January, but slumped to a closing 77, said: "Everyone responds differently to pressure and it takes a little getting used to. I've been in this position a few times now so hopefully I've got it sussed."

Fellow Scot Marc Warren was setting the pace out on the course, the joint halfway leader going to the turn in 32 and picking up another birdie on the 10th to move to 11 under par.

That was two clear of Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez with 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose and Swede Kristoffer Broberg another shot back on eight under.

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