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Rory McIlroy feeling confident despite Bryson DeChambeau’s sizable U.S. Open lead

Rory McIlroy is dealing with a decade-old ailment and will need to overcome a three-stroke deficit in the final round of the U.S. Open to shake it off.

Nonetheless, McIlroy, who last won a major championship in 2014, is confident he can still find a way to win at Pinehurst No. 2.

“I had a wonderful opportunity [Sunday]”I played great,” said McIlroy, who finished with a 1-under 69.

“The test that Pinehurst presents is great. You have to be focused and concentrated on every shot. That’s how the U.S. Open should be. Of course it’s great to be in the running to win it.”

McIlroy’s biggest obstacle won’t be the stern test that Pinehurst poses. It will be Bryson DeChambeau, who carded a 3-under 67 on Saturday. At 7-under after 54 holes, DeChambeau is the only player with three consecutive rounds under 60 on the par-70 course. He used his superior driving, aggressive iron play and crucial putting to pull away from the rest of the field over the final nine holes.

Bryson DeChambeau greets fans on the 18th green.
Photo: Alex Slits/Getty Images

But even DeChambeau can’t escape Pinehurst’s fearsome “Turtleback” green: Look no further than the par-4 16th hole, where DeChambeau’s second shot rolled just short of the green, as did his third, resulting in an unlucky double bogey.

After DeChambeau stumbled, he fell back to six under for the win, a score McIlroy briefly held as well.

However, the Northern Irishman made a series of poor iron shots in the closing stages and bogeyed the 15th and 17th holes, both par threes.

“The last few holes are very difficult,” McIlroy explained.

“Even on the 17th hole, I was downwind, but the pin was cut forward, so it was hard to get the ball close, and on the 18th hole, [front] The location of the hole is…

McIlroy had a chance to make up for his bogey with a birdie at the last, but his final shot went wide and he finished at 4 under for the win, setting him up for Sunday’s penultimate pairing with Ryder Cup rival Patrick Cantlay.

“I’m really looking forward to it. Would’ve been nice to make that last putt to get to 5 under and get out of that jam on the fourth. There are pros and cons. There are pros and cons to being in the last group and maybe being one group ahead and playing isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” McIlroy mused.

“It’s almost the same situation as the last day of last year. [the Los Angeles Country Club]”… It’s a very familiar position, I’ve been here many times before, and hopefully I can play the golf I need to play tomorrow to take it even further.”

A year ago in Los Angeles, McIlroy entered the final round at nine under par, one stroke behind Wyndham Clark and Rickie Fowler, who made up the final group while McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler started next-to-last.

Rory McIlroy, US Open

Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the 17th hole.
Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

McIlroy started well with a birdie on the first par-5, but it was his final par break of the day. A bogey on the par-5 14th sealed his fate and he once again missed out on a major championship, finishing one stroke behind Clark.

A strong start is essential for McIlroy, especially since he’s two strokes back from last year. Pinehurst No. 2 is a much tougher course than Los Angeles Country Club, where he shot two record-breaking 62s last year, and no one has come close this week.

But McIlroy believes in himself and his game plan, and he feels he can still get the job done despite the adversity he’s facing.

“I think there are some holes you have to be aggressive on. There are some holes you have to be conservative on. There are some holes you can attack with a wedge and hit it close. There are some holes you have to avoid,” McIlroy explained.

“It tests your chipping. It tests your putting. And, of course, it tests your mental strength more than any other golf tournament. But it’s a style of golf that I’ve started trying to adopt over the last few years and it’s the reason why my performance at the U.S. Open has improved so much over the past five years.”

No one has been able to match McIlroy’s U.S. Open record since 2019, and he has yet to win. Of course, that could all change if DeChambeau wins on Sunday, which would give McIlroy his second U.S. Open title and first in four years. But McIlroy is confident he can stop DeChambeau from winning. Whether he’s up to the task is another matter.

Jack Mirko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation Playing Through. Follow For more golf articles, follow us on Twitter Jack Mirko In the same way.