August 4 2012
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- The last time Rory McIlroy felt this good about his game was back in May.
He was hitting on all cylinders then, narrowly losing to Rickie Fowler in a playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship. Since that week in Charlotte he's had two top-10s, missed five cuts and tied for 60th at the British Open.
Small wonder, in that case, that a second-straight 67 on a championship-caliber layout like Firestone Country Club left McIlroy energized. He'll start the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in a tie for fourth, five strokes off Jim Furyk's lead.
"It's getting there, it definitely is," McIlroy said. "I've worked hard to get it back. The last few weeks have been tough just playing so great, and obviously my expectations every time I tee it up are pretty high, and not to live up to my own expectations is not nice, but I feel like I'm definitely moving in the right direction."
McIlroy hasn't hit a ton of fairways this week -- just five on Saturday, in fact -- but he's tied for first in greens in regulation, finding 40 of 54. His putting has been something of a mixed bag. He's used 89 for the week and 30 on Saturday, but he's tied for first in putts made distance and ranks 14th in strokes gained putting.
McIlroy went out in 32 on Saturday, making birdie putts of 3 and 24 feet, and a tap-in from 5 inches at the ninth. His lone bogey came when he missed the green at the 11th hole, as well as an 11-footer to save, but he got that shot back with a 3-footer for birdie at the par-5 16th.
"I think I hit the ball well from tee to green, and I took a few of my chances early on," McIlroy said. "Actually had a couple of big saves around 4, 5 and 6, and just finished it off well. I took my chance on 16 and had a good chance at 17 and didn't make it but then holed a nice putt for par at the last."
McIlroy, who ranks third in the world, could take over No. 1 from Luke Donald with a win -- providing Donald finishes lower than 12th. The Englishman will start the final round in a tie for ninth at 4 under after a round of 71 Saturday.
Furyk's opening 63 has given everyone chasing him hope for the final round. That said, the threat of thunderstorms that prompted tournament officials to move tee times up to 8 a.m. and winds expected to gust over 25 mph on Sunday will only heighten the challenge.
"If I can go ahead and shoot a good one tomorrow and post a good finish or if I go ahead and get off to a really fast start and get myself right in there with a chance, then there's no better way to prepare for next week," McIlroy said.