By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- Rory McIlroy didn't expect to be trailing by three shots heading into Monday's finale at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Not when he went out and shot a solid 67 on Sunday after taking a one-stroke advantage into the third round at TPC Boston.
"You think ... that you might still be in the lead going into the last day," the affable young Northern Irishman offered with a wry grin.
No argument there. But McIlroy watched first-hand as Louis Oosthuizen put on a clinic, making seven birdies in a row during one stretch on the way to a 63 that catapulted him to the top of the leaderboard to 19 under.
"I was delighted when I got the honor back on the 12th tee," McIlroy said, only half joking about that birdie barrage. "But it was great to watch. Louis is the sort of player that can do that. He's very explosive, and he didn't really put a foot wrong today.
“Very impressive round by him and very happy with my round, and very happy that I am still in touching distance going into tomorrow."
McIlroy knows what it's like to get on that kind of a roll. After all, he won the 2011 U.S. Open and the PGA Championship last month by a prodigious eight shots. That said, Oosthuizen's British Open title in 2010 came by seven strokes so he's certainly comfortable going low – and staying there.
"He didn't do a bit wrong," Oosthuizen said. "He drove it well. His iron play was fantastic and he holed the putts when he got on the green. It was great to be a part of and hopefully, he doesn't do the same thing tomorrow and gives me some sort of a chance."
When Oosthuizen finished off that birdie run with a 2-footer at the 10th hole, McIlroy actually trailed by six shots. He didn't panic, though -- closing the gap with a pair of 5-footers for birdie at the next two holes while Oosthuizen made pars.
"The birdie on 11 sort of sparked things, and I hit a couple great shots into 12, great tee shot off 13, great tee shot on 14," McIlroy said. "So that sparked me to life a little bit. If you're talking about momentum in a round, I think 11 definitely gave me some."
Granted, McIlroy gave one shot back at the 15th hole when he missed the fairway and couldn't get up and down from in front of the green. But a superb iron left him with a 4-footer for birdie at the 16th hole and he capped off the day when he two-putted from 30 feet at the par-5 18th -- a hole he's played in 4 under so far this week.
Mission, as they say, accomplished.
"Obviously you're six behind, and you can try and start pushing,
but I was still in second place, so I thought, stay patient,"
McIlroy said. “Even though this is one tournament, you're
sort of viewing these Playoffs as a whole, and you stay in second
place and you're in great position going into next week and so on.
"But as I said, I stayed patient, I made a few birdies on the way in, and very happy only to be three behind going into tomorrow."