JOHNS CREEK, Georgia - Poor putting has wrecked Rory McIlroy’s challenge at the PGA Championship and he ended Saturday’s third round talking of a top-30 finish rather than competing to win.
The U.S. Open champion, who has played most of the tournament with a bandaged right forearm after hurting his right wrist early in Thursday’s opening round, struggled to a four-over-par 74 in hot, humid conditions.
That left the tousled-haired Northern Irishman well down the leaderboard at seven-over 217, and with a revised target for Sunday’s final round of simply breaking par.
“If I (had) got back to even par for the tournament today, it would be different,” world number four McIlroy told reporters after totalling 33 putts for a second consecutive day on the slick greens at Atlanta Athletic Club.
“But you’ve got to be optimistic, you’ve got to be positive. I need something really good to finish in the top 20 or top 30 tomorrow. I want to try and do that.
“I’m disappointed that I have not been able to play my best, but I’m optimistic. I haven’t shot under par so far this week, so it will be a good effort to go out and do that tomorrow.”
McIlroy had been the pre-tournament favourite but he strained a tendon in his right wrist attempting a risky shot on the third hole of the opening round and had to battle pain and discomfort on the way to a level-par 70.
Asked if he regretted playing on in that first round after striking a tree root on his downswing at the par-four third, the 22-year-old replied: “Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the right thing to do. It was tough.
“When my wrist hurt the most was on Thursday when I did it, and I shot the best score, so maybe I shouldn’t have went and got it strapped up,” he added with a grin.
The main problem, though, for McIlroy in the year’s final major was his putting.
“It was another frustrating day,” he said after an erratic round including three birdies, three bogeys and two double-bogeys.
“I got off to a terrible start, four over through some holes. I couldn’t get my speed at all on the greens, struggled with it all week.
“I felt as if I actually played a lot better on the back nine and gave myself a few chances, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
“It’s been a bit of a frustrating week,” added McIlroy, who claimed his first major title by eight shots in June at Congressional Country Club.