Rory McIlroy is feasting on chicken sandwiches at the U.S. Open and hungry for another major
Rory McIlroy has put himself in position to chase his fifth major championship title on his first Father's Day.
SAN DIEGO – Rory McIlroy racked his brain. He was trying to recall the last time he went to sleep in the thick of contention to win one of golf’s four majors.
“It feels like a while since I’ve had a chance,” he said.
Well, it’s been 2,505 days since McIlroy hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy as the winner of the 2014 PGA Championship, not that anyone was counting. That was 24 majors ago.
“I’m trying to think of the last time where I really felt like I had a chance. Carnoustie in ’18 felt like I maybe had half a chance, going into the final day at Pebble in 2019. But apart from that, there’s been some good finishes but never felt like I was in the thick of things,” he said. “I’m just excited for the opportunity to have a chance and be in one of the final groups.”
On the 10th anniversary of his U.S. Open victory at Congressional, his first of four major titles, McIlroy signed for a 4-under 67 at Torrey Pines’ South Course and a 54-hole aggregate of 3-under 210, tied for fourth and just two strokes off the pace.
McIlroy, who shot his lowest round in a major since the third round of the 2020 Masters, was pleased with his tee-to-green game and called his performance in the third round “the best he played all week.” After making a total of 10 bogeys during the first two rounds, McIlroy only made one on Saturday. The difference?
“You have to accept that middle of greens and pars are good, and I got into that mindset today,” he said. “Nothing flashy.”
That’s a formula that never goes out of style at the U.S. Open. McIlroy made a birdie at the second hole and reeled off seven straight pars to close the front nine. He made a short birdie at No. 10 and then holed a flop shot for birdie at No. 12, lifting his 60-degree wedge to the sky in celebration. One hole later, he smoked a fairway wood from 270 yards that caromed off the flagstick at the par 5 and made a two-putt birdie.
“It took a nick out of the flag,” McIlroy said. “(Caddie) Harry (Diamond) called it the best shot I hit all year.”
His lone hiccup happened at 15 when he pulled his tee dead left into the barranca, near a rattlesnake, and took a penalty stroke for an unplayable. He did yeoman’s work to salvage a bogey.
“This is the only tournament in the world where you fist pump a bogey. Only losing one there was a big deal, and getting it up-and-down out of the bunker on 16 and making that birdie on 18 just to get that shot back that I lost, really big.”
McIlroy twirled his club as his second shot to the par-5 18th settled on the dance floor, and a two-putt birdie closed out a sterling 67. McIlroy said he felt a pair of 68s on the weekend would serve him well.
“I’ve done the first part of that job. Now it’s up to me tomorrow to go out and try to play a similar round of golf,” he said.
To do so, McIlroy will have to go toe-to-toe with defending U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and chase down 54-hole co-leaders Russell Henley, another upstart Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
It’s been 24 majors since McIlroy’s come out on top at a major, but he’s the most experienced of the contenders in these situations. Despite never having won a major when trailing after 54 holes, he’s proven before that he has the mental fortitude required to be a U.S. Open champion.
“It’s the most demanding golf tournament in the world, mentally, and you have to keep your wits about yourself and really stay present and stay in the moment,” McIlroy said. “Even when I was going well today I had to remind myself of that. Twenty-eleven felt like a walk in the park compared to this. You know, if I want to get another U.S. Open trophy, I’m going to have to fight for it a little more than I did 10 years ago.”
First, he was going to enjoy some family time on the eve of his first Father’s Day as a father. McIlroy and wife Erica and daughter Poppy are staying at the Torrey Pines Lodge overlooking the 18th green, where he has feasted on the same chicken sandwich five nights in a row from room service.
“So, I’ll probably make it six nights in a row,” he said. “It’s rotisserie chicken, avocado, sun dried tomatoes, some garlic aioli and some ‘holey’ bread. It’s really good.”
That’s not all that McIlroy is hungry for; he’s hungry for another major too, and he just might get the best Father’s Day present of all, major championship No. 5, on Sunday.
“Mother’s Day was pretty good to us a few weeks ago,” said McIlroy, referencing his victory last month at the Wells Fargo Championship. “So, hopefully we can have the same result on Father’s Day.”