Rory McIlroy jumped 23 spots on the leaderboard at the Horizon Irish Open Saturday, carding a 6-under 66. It was tied with Ryan Fox and Billy Horschel for the lowest round of the day.
The Northern Irishman now sits in third alone, two shots back of Germany’s Hurly Long.
McIlroy struggled to find the fairways earlier in the week, but turned that around Saturday.
He opened with a birdie on the par-4 1st and would go out in 33 with some solid play. As he headed to the par-5 16th, he was 5-under for his round and only a few shots back. That’s when things almost went haywire.
McIlroy pushed his second shot into the water. His fourth from the drop zone hit rocks and took a wild bounce that somehow found the green.
Despite missing the long par putt, the four-time major winner felt relieved.
“I got lucky with that fourth shot, hitting the rocks and finding the green… probably fortunate to walk away with a bogey there,” McIlroy said after his round.
He kept that momentum going and finished birdie-birdie to close out his round.
“To bounce back with the two birdies on 17 and 18 after putting the ball in the water on 16 was huge, so overall a great day’s play,” McIlroy said.
That wasn’t the only bit of drama he overcame. McIlroy also revealed that he broke his 3-wood back on the sixth after a poor tee shot.
“I went to hit the top of that tee-marker and I caught the corner with the bottom of the shaft.”
Nevertheless, he overcame all of the obstacles Saturday.
He now stands on the precipice of some interesting history.
McIlroy is looking to join Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo as legends to have won their national opens twice on the same course. McIlroy previously won this event at The K Club back in 2016.
“It’s nice to have the memories of 2016 when I was able to get over the line. It’s hard to win your own national open… The support of the home crowd is incredible. At the same time, there’s a bit of extra pressure there.”
Undoubtedly, he will have the support of the raucous Irish fans Sunday. Will he close it out with another epic win?
Kendall Capps is the Senior Editor/Site Manager of SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow us at @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms.