After two solid rounds at the 2013 Players Championship, Rory McIlroy responded on Saturday with another and will head into Sunday's final round at a modest five-under par.
McIlroy finished with a one-over 73 on Saturday and dropped a stroke and some of the luster from his first two days in Ponte Vedra Beach. However, he'll be in position to make a late push on Sunday, and if he recaptures his Round 1 form, there's a good chance he'll finish inside the top 10.
He went to the clubhouse tied for 19th, but that score could change once the other pairings finish on Saturday at TPC Sawgrass. It's going to be a long climb up the leaderboard, but McIlroy is the No. 2 golfer in the world for a reason and could even overtake No. 1 with a miraculous finish on Sunday (h/t Jason Sobel):
Rory McIlroy can regain No. 1 ranking if he wins and Tiger Woods finishes 13th or worse. Only one seems like a plausible scenario right now.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) May 10, 2013
It's been an otherwise disappointing season for an overly talented golfer, but he's showing flashes of brilliance yet again on a course that has swallowed golfers up here in the past. Take a look at some stats, the current leaderboard and McIlroy analysis below.
Here is a breakdown of McIlroy's Day 3 scorecard:
|Hole|| 1 ||2|| 3 || 4 || 5 || 6 || 7 ||8||9||IN|
|Par|| 4 || 5 ||3||4||4||4||4||3||5||36|
(3) || 4 ||3||4||4||4||4||3||||36|
*Birdies listed in parenthesis and bold, while bogeys are in brackets and bold.
Although he finished at one-over, McIlroy actually got off to a great start, putting together a birdie at No. 1 for this first time this week at the Players and lowering his score to seven-under—right near the guys at the top of the leaderboard.
After consistent, steady golf for the next seven holes, he fell victim to the par-five No. 9 again—the same hole he dropped a stroke on during Friday's Round 2. He followed that up with two more bogeys in the next five holes and looked to be in bad shape coming down the stretch.
However, he managed to salvage his day with a birdie on No. 16, a hole that has been very kind to the field this week. McIlroy himself had a birdie there in Round 1 and managed to avoid a two-over spot that likely would have officially placed him out of contention.
He heads into the final round with some substantial (yet not insurmountable) work to do to climb back up the board.
*For a complete look at the leaderboard at the 2013 Players Championship, click here.
So far, McIlroy has to be happy with his performance at the Players.
Through three rounds, he's been good with the driver, ranking 12th among those still on the course in driving distance, and also hitting over 72 percent of his shots on the green in regulation. Those are marks that get you wins on the Tour.
Where McIlroy needs to improve is in his short game. He hasn't gained any strokes putting (overall) since Thursday, and Round 3 was one of the worst on the course, as he added 1.3 strokes to his game with his performance on the green.
Where will Rory finish?
All in all, there are plenty of positives to draw on as McIlroy tries to rebound for Sunday's finale.
As the British Open and other major championships approach, Rory needs to continue to find consistency in his game, both on the tee box and on the green. He's been good with the long clubs so far, but the putting continues to plague his game. And he'll have to find a quick fix to something that has plagued him all season if he wants to officially contend on Sunday.
McIlroy is the world No. 2 for a reason, though. Sunday will be a great gauge for where he is in his game when the final leaderboard comes out.
*All stats courtesy PGATour.com.
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