Rory McIlroy's75 on Saturday left him 8 over at the U.S. Open. (Hallowell/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Rory McIlroy didn't quite know what to say after signing for that disappointing 75 in the third round of the U.S. Open.
"I guess I was missing my woods right and my irons left," the young Northern Irishman said. "So it was a bit of a weird one today."
Indeed, it was. McIlroy opened with a birdie, as did his playing partner, Tiger Woods, but then everything fell apart for both of them. He bogeyed four of his next five holes and ended up 8 over after three rounds. Woods shot a 76 and is one stroke further back.
For the week, McIlroy has made 16 bogeys and just eight birdies. The world No. 2 need 33 putts on Saturday while hitting 11 of 14 fairways and just 11 greens in regulation.
"If you're not on your game a hundred percent, you get on the wrong side of the greens and it's just frightening because I didn't feel like I played too badly," McIlroy said. "I missed a few shots here and there, and I was trying on every shot out there and I was trying to get myself back into it, but it's tough.
"If you're just not a hundred percent on top of your game, it's going to expose some of your flaws or weaknesses."
As a result, the 2011 U.S. Open champion will start the final round nine strokes off the lead held by Phil Mickelson. Is that too far back on a challenging Merion layout?
"I think so," McIlroy said candidly. "It would take something unbelievable and the scores aren't that low out there, so I think I'm 27th at the minute. I guess, if I play well, try and get in the top 10, that would be realistic."
McIlroy, who is looking for his first win of the season, says his inconsistent performance this year is a matter of confidence and fluidity. He's been working hard on his swing -- and "it looks good on camera," McIlroy said -- but a few wayward shots in competition can get things going in the wrong direction.
"I don't know, it's just a bit of a struggle and it seems like if I've had a few too many tournaments this year where I've struggled in one round or a couple of rounds and not been able to put it all together," he said.
That said, McIlroy went through a similar stretch midway through last season but came on strong in the summer with a win at the PGA Championship and two of the first three events in the FedExCup Playoffs.
"I don't feel like it's too far away at all," McIlroy said. "It's just a matter of believing and staying patient and working hard and knowing that you work on the right thing, you're going to turn it around."