June 18, 2011 - Bethesda, MD (AHN)
Rory McIlroy's march into the U.S. Open record books has taken him to the summit. He's gone father under par than any man in the 111-year history of this storied event.
The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland continued his dominance at the Congressional Country Club Saturday with a third round 68 that gave him a 14-under par 199 total, lowest ever through three rounds of this championship. The old mark was 200 set by Jim Furyk at the 2003 Open at Olympia Fields.
The result of his spectacular play is a seemingly insurmountable eight shot lead over Y.E. Yang that he will carry into the final 18 holes. Yang made birdies at the 14th and 16th holes for a one-under par 70 and is the only player at 207.
Lee Westwood and Jason Day shot 65s that got them to five-under par, 208 and they were joined by Robert Garrigus after he shot 68. Still, they will start their final round nine shots behind McIlroy.
"It definitely wasn't as easy as the first couple days," McIlroy admitted, acknowledging a slow start and feeling some nerves. "The up-and-down at three was huge," he said, recalling a wayward drive that went far right and into the crowd. He simply pitched out then hit a wedge within two feet of the hole to save par.
"After that I settled down and played really, really solid golf on the back nine. I hit my tee shot just a bit too far on the 10th," he said, where he made his only bogey of the round from the back bunker and his first in three days.
He shot a two-under par 34 on the front then after his hiccup at 10 he came back with a birdie at the difficult 494-yard 11th where he hit his second shot from 188 yards to 12 feet and holed the putt to get to 13-under.
He got to 14-under at the 14th where he holed a six-footer after a superb second shot from 188 yards. He missed a chance to get to 15-under when he missed from 12 feet at the par five 16th but he made a huge par saving putt from nine feet at the 17th after he ran his first putt from 45 feet well past the hole.
As he made his way around the back nine, the crowds were chanting for him. "The support was fantastic," McIlroy observed. "Hope I can just give them something to cheer about tomorrow."
McIlroy has been nothing short of fantastic for three days and he said his attitude got him there. "You have to have a little bit of attitude," he said. "I set little goals throughout the round to keep me in the present, keep me from looking at leaderboards."
He will now have a second chance at a major championship after sleeping on the 54 hole lead.
He took a four-shot lead into the final round of the Masters last April but his final round 80 left him 10 behind eventual winner Charl Schwartzel.
McIlroy said the experience prepared him for what he'll face Sunday.
"No lead is big enough," he said. "I just have to keep going."
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