As Bryson DeChambeau was jeered at, Rory McIlroy it rolled back the years and brought cheers. McIlroy’s behavior after a first-round 71 at this US PGA Championship was so pessimistic that the possibility of him claiming the Wanamaker Trophy for a third time seemed as likely as his signing up for LIV Golf. How easy it was to forget that no one at the top of the game can flip the switch on it quite like Rory McIlroy.

This was a curious important afternoon. Oak Hill became Soak Hill when rain hit upstate New York. DeChambeau, one of LIV’s poster boys, was audibly interrupted as he came to the first tee along with fellow rebel Brooks Koepka. The crowds in this part of the United States are not known for their restraint, but it was still a departure from the general atmosphere. The fourth day could be interesting; DeChambeau remains largely in the US PGA hunt. Koepka, looking to atone for his anguish at last month’s Masters, leads the field at 6-under. Koepka has backed up a 72 with two 66s. Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners share second with minus five, two clear of DeChambeau.

At the gallery reception, the LIV player said, “I don’t care. I mean, it’s not a big deal. Look, it’s New York and I’m waiting for him here. I appreciate the fans. They do that to me, it’s like, OK, great, no problem. I have no problem in any way. If we get applause, that’s fantastic and if we don’t, you know, whatever, it is what it is.”

McIlroy wants to focus on his work inside the ropes rather than his main role against the LIV threat. This is fair enough; golf and McIlroy mutually benefit when the Northern Irishman is at his best. The 34-year-old, who missed the cut at both the Players Championship and the Masters, was battling technical demons earlier in this important week.

Those failures seemed to haunt McIlroy again as he dropped shots at 6, 8 and 9 to offset birdies at 3 and 5. The response was from a man who believes he can end the wait for a fifth major to come. dates back to this tournament in 2014. McIlroy birdied on days 12, 13 and 16. Bravely saved par after missing the green at the par-three 15. The penultimate hole brought an aberration after McIlroy overshot the green from a bunker fairway but salvaged a four on the last despite his tee shot leaking into the right rough.

McIlroy signed for a 69, his second in as many rounds, leaving him one under par on aggregate. More interesting than the scorecard look of him was the smile on his face. He feels the opportunity.

“If you had told me Thursday night that I would go into Sunday with a realistic chance of winning this golf tournament, I would have taken it,” McIlroy said. “I still don’t feel like my game is in good shape. I have maintained it well. I’ve made some good putts. I have scored well. I probably hit a bit better off the tee today than I did the first few days, but I think that in this tournament and especially in these conditions on this golf course, the non-physical parts of the game are much more important than the physical ones. parts of the game I think I’ve done well and that’s the reason I’m in a decent position.”

so is justin rose. The resurgent Englishman’s 69 moved him to two under par. A second big win, a decade after number one, is doable. Rose has Scottie Scheffler as his 54-hole scoring company after the latter dropped to 73.

Justin Rose on his way to a third round 69.
Justin Rose on his way to a third round 69. Photograph: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tommy Fleetwood marched across the field courtesy of a 68, posted in the worst conditions of the day. He now sits in the top 10 for one more. “I am incredibly pleased,” Fleetwood said.

“He was really relentless from the start of the warm-up to literally when we came out onto the last green. There was very little wind, but that doesn’t stop me from playing cold, long and wet.”

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A wild morning in the office for Padraig Harrington saw the 2008 champion play the front nine at 43 and rally by 11 shots after the spin. “I was just trying to break 80,” the Irishman said of his thoughts as he headed to the 10th tee. “On a normal day I would have played the top nine in two and been complaining about it.

“I three-putted on the first two greens. On a tough day, you need drive. I three putts on the first two greens and then on the back of the next one, so I hit three shots right away. And the same in seven, eight, nine. I was on the strip three times and made three bogeys. I had eight fives in those first nine.”

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Unlike DeChambeau, LIV’s Phil Mickelson received a warm ovation when he hit the opening tee in the third round of a major for the 100th time. “Playing in these tournaments is something I really appreciate,” Mickelson said after turning 75. “I mean, it just shows how old I am, I guess, and how many years I’ve been playing. But it has been a lot of fun to participate in so many big events and play well in them.”

Mickelson’s crowning glory in this event came two years ago, at the age of 50. McIlroy is suddenly calling on the spirit of the 20 year old himself.


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