McIlroy vows to keep foot on gas in chase for victory
November 02, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy takes the 54-hole lead at WGC-HSBC Champions
Catch me if you can.
Reigning FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy has laid down the gauntlet to his chasers at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions, vowing to continue his aggressive play at Sheshan International Golf Club.
For the third straight round, McIlroy posted a 5-under 67 in Shanghai to earn to the 54-hole lead at 15 under. He is one clear of Louis Oosthuizen and two in front of Matthew Fitzpatrick and defending champion Xander Schauffele.
Since using a similar assertive mindset to claim last season's RBC Canadian Open, where he carded a final-round 61 to earn victory, the 17-time PGA TOUR winner has tried to take wins, not protect them. He’s also armed with the knowledge that 54-hole leaders have often been reeled in at this event. Not to mention his last WGC event saw him give up the lead on Sunday when he fell into the trap of worrying about other competitors. This time, McIlroy will not die wondering.
“I want to go out there and be committed, play aggressively, and shoot a good number,” McIlroy said.
“I took a lot from the win in Canada earlier this year. I went out tied for the lead, and I just said from the start, 'I'm going to keep my foot down and I'm going to go for everything.' It was a good lesson that when you do have something right there, in front of you, a tournament to win or something to achieve, you just have to grab it with both hands, and that's what I'll do tomorrow.”
While others faced rollercoaster third rounds, McIlroy just went about his business without mistakes. He recorded one of only three bogey-free rounds on the day.
“Right now, the game feels pretty simple. I know that it's not going to feel like that all the time, but when it does, you have to take advantage of that feeling,” he added.
“I've given myself another opportunity to win a very big golf tournament, a tournament that I've never won before. There's enough guys close to me that I just need to go out there and play aggressively. Just have a similar mindset to the mindset I've had over the first few days.”
Oosthuizen surged into contention with a 7-under 65 – the best score of the day – that included starting with five consecutive birdies. The South African is looking to add to his lone PGA TOUR win - the 2010 Open Championship.
While he has eight European Tour wins to his name, Oosthuizen has been plagued on the PGA TOUR with eight runner-up finishes since his Open Championship win.
“Winning a World event will be a big achievement, and I need to just go out and play some good golf,” Oosthuizen said.
“I played with Rory the last two rounds last week. He's absolutely striping it. I need to play really good golf tomorrow.”
Oosthuizen admitted to nerves on Saturday, but not about his golf. Rather, he was thinking of the Rugby World Cup Final between his native South Africa and England that was played between the third and fourth rounds. He was hoping for a win to use as an omen.
He got it, with the Springboks producing a dominant display to win 32-12 and claim their third William Webb Ellis trophy. Oosthuizen will be hoping for similar dominance in the final round.
Schauffele had no intention of watching the match. He’s still overcoming the flu, so it’s remarkable the defending champion is even in the mix. He won from three behind a year ago. This time he’s just two adrift.
“No one has ever repeated here. It's a packed leaderboard… I just want a chance with nine holes to play. I think I'll be pretty satisfied with that,” Schauffele said.
“It's been a long week. Strength is slowly coming back. Just give myself a chance and I'll be able to hold my head high if I do that.
“Of course I want to win and kick everyone's face in, but at the same time, I'm just here to have a good time and have fun. I wasn't expecting to play this well at the beginning of the week, so I'm probably the happiest guy here in the tournament.”
Fitzpatrick surrendered the lead he had at the halfway point to McIlroy, much like he did at the World Golf Championships – FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He’s had four runner-up finishes worldwide this year and was ultimately fourth in Memphis.
“Everybody is here is to win. If not, you may as well go home. Be a good day tomorrow,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Unfortunately Rory is playing very well. He's playing very annoying. I've got to play well tomorrow. That's why it's a World Golf Championships. It's got the best players in the world.”
Even if McIlroy does win, he won’t overcome Brooks Koepka at the top of the world rankings. but he will close the gap significantly. He will, however, almost certainly take the top spot in the FedExCup rankings. No player has ever won the FedExCup three times or defended the crown. McIlroy will aim for both in 2019-20.
Catch him if you can.