What a day. This is The Open that keeps on giving. There’s something in the air here, and now Rory McIlroy, who has been the defender of traditional golf, is tied for the lead going in to the final day. Perhaps he is on a mission. And not just a personal one. Although it has been a frustrating eight years since he last won a major and he was unable to play at the St Andrews Open of 2015, so there’s unfinished business, there may well be something else motivating him, to be a champion not associated with the new LIV tour.
Rory has seemed calm and serene all week. Even playing amongst a wall of partisan support willing him on he seems to be in control. His near miss at The Masters this year seems to have re-energised his self belief, and golf seems to be fun again. He says that he thinks he is a much better player than he was 12 months ago and it shows.
His long lag putting seemed to be excellent and his magical holing of the bunker shot on hole 10 yesterday ignited the whole round. His ball striking seemed to be pure and even when he overshot the green on 17 his calm recovery for a bogey shows how even keeled he is mentally.
The crowd were with him, sweeping him along but he didn’t seem to be shaken out of what he called “his own little world”. There are a lot of vocal Americans here this week too sometimes shouting out bewildering things like “light the candle” or “mashed potatoes”. Do What? The home noise should drown that out on Sunday. The Rory Roar as we now know it. With 16 top 10s in the majors since 2015 he is the most in form player in the majors and he holds the course record, 63, at St Andrews from the 2010 Open.
Viktor Hovland matched him shot for shot as they both carded 66s and his own round was incredible. 4 birdies in a row from the 3rd hole he also took advantage of the easier par 4s and the par 5s. He’s had a run of average performances and no top 10 in a major yet, but he is only 24.
It was slightly shocking to see Cameron Smith not being able to capitalise on any opportunity in his round. He looked rather shell shocked when he came off the final green. Perhaps he has got his bad round out of the way and definitely he looks to be the most dangerous of the hunting pack. Hovland and McIlroy stand tied at -16 four shots clear of Cameron Smith and Cameron Young with Siu Wu Kim and Scottie Scheffler a further shot back.
This magnificent afternoon has set up the final day for a spectacular duel. Let’s hope we get it. There has been an electric atmosphere amongst the galleries. The wind wasn’t a factor, making the tricky pin positions less dangerous than they could have been.
What has been noticeable this week is that Rory seems to have been much more businesslike, not a lot of engagement from him and his playing partners – apart from the deeply respectful tip of the cap to Tiger Woods as he came down the 18th fairway on Friday as Rory was heading out.
One day more, one more dawn, one day more Rory. The Golfing Gods would say you’ve waited long enough.