Destiny, thy name is Rory McIlroy.
The 25-year-old is 18 holes away from winning his second major championship of 2014 and becoming only the 13th golfer since World War I to win back-to-back majors. Through 54 holes, he sits atop the 2014 PGA Championship leaderboard at 13 under:
For months and arguably the last few years, golf fans and writers have bemoaned the lack of a transcendent player like Tiger Woods. Nobody's really sure if Tiger can ever return to a level where he's competing for major titles again after all of his injuries.
Although the sport remains as deep as ever talent-wise, it still needs that one player to stand out above the rest.
McIlroy's made it clear before that he's more than willing to fill the void.
"Look, I said at the start of the year that golf was looking for someone to put their hand up and sort of become one of the dominant players in the game," he said last Tuesday, per The Guardian's Ewan Murray. "I felt like I had the ability to do that and it’s just nice to be able to win a few tournaments and get back to where I feel like I should be, which is near the top of the world rankings and competing in majors and winning."
It's one thing to say you're ready to become the biggest star in the game. It's another to go out and back that up on the course. And that's exactly what he did at the Valhalla Golf Club on Saturday. He began the day as the leader after two rounds and ended the day as the leader after three rounds.
You can see McIlroy's hole-by-hole score below.
|Rory McIlroy's Round 3 Scorecard at 2014 PGA Championship|
Here's where he stands in relation to the rest of the leaderboard.
That top four sets up for two captivating final groups on Sunday. In one, you've got McIlroy and Wiesberger. In the other, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson will be paired off. One of those four is not like the other, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Many are discussing whether golf is entering into the "Rory McIlroy Era" with his wins at Hoylake and the Bridgestone Invitational. While it's still way too early to start thinking like that, GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel joked that the "Bernd Wiesberger Era" may soon be upon us:
McIlroy's front nine was rather uneventful. He picked up two birdies and a bogey, which opened the door for Fowler, Mickelson, Wiesberger, Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen to flirt with the lead. They all hovered right around nine and 10 under but couldn't find the breakthrough.
Then came the back nine, where McIlroy turned into a monster. A birdie on 10 set the stage for a strong finish from the Northern Irish star.
No. 12 proved once again to be McIlroy's nemesis. After birdieing the hole in Round 1, he's followed up with back-to-back bogeys in Rounds 2 and 3, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Even when Rory flirted with disaster, he found a way to somehow claw his way out of danger. Take his chip on the par-three 14 for instance. An errant drive set him up with what looked like a sure bogey. He needed to dig out of the sand just to hope for a reasonable par putt.
His shot from the bunker rolled to within feet of the cup.
McIlroy needed a little more magic on the 15th hole. Once again, he was on the brink of going a shot behind Wiesberger. All that stood between him and second place as a 20-foot birdie putt. Suffice it to say he sunk it.
Rory put his talent on display on the very next hole, which Murray succinctly summarized:
You can view his sublime approach on 16 below.
McIlroy followed with a par on 17 and a birdie on 18 to take the outright lead from Wiesberger after finding yet another bunker save.
The sign of a great golfer isn't looking brilliant on every shot, though that certainly helps.
Sometimes a drive goes a little to the left or right. Sometimes the ball bounces a little wrong on the green. It's those moments of recovery that truly separate the good from the very good and the very good from the great.
McIlroy didn't have the best round of his career on Saturday, but he maintained his spot atop the leaderboard and avoided many too many critical mistakes. Rounds like that are enough to win major championships.
The PGA Championship is his to lose at this stage. Is anybody going to bet against him in the final round? Wiesberger, Fowler and Mickelson all have a shot at unseating McIlroy, but the tournament rests firmly on his shoulders.