Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

McIlroy not getting carried away

Open Championship leader Rory McIlroy is taking nothing for granted despite a third-round 68 giving him a six-shot cushion heading into the final day.

The Northern Irishman has been majestic all week and while he could not match his back-to-back 66s on Saturday, this round was arguably more impressive because of the way he responded to the challenge.

When American Rickie Fowler birdied the 12th - picking up his sixth shot of the day - he drew level with McIlroy on 12 under.

Within four holes the gap was extended to five after McIlroy eagled the 16th and another eagle at the last edged the gap wider even taking into account Fowler's birdie there moments earlier.

The chasing pack may have little hope of catching the 25-year-old, who is looking to secure the third leg of a career grand slam having already won the US Open and US PGA, but he will not be complacent.

"I've won from seven back this year (at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth just four days after splitting from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki) so I know how leads can go very quickly and I'm not taking anything for granted," he said.

"If the guys in front of me had finished a little better, finished the way I did, then my lead wouldn't have been as much as it was.

"Instead of a six-shot lead it could have been a one or two-shot lead.

"A lot can happen and I've been on the right side of it and I've been on the wrong side of it, that's why you can't let yourself think about winning, you've just got to completely stay in the present and that's what I'm going to try to do for all 18 holes tomorrow."

McIlroy looked happy and relaxed during his post-round press conference and while the Claret Jug is effectively his to lose those sort of thoughts are not entering his head.

"This is the third night in a row that I'll sleep on the lead. I feel very comfortable leading the tournament," added the Northern Irishman, who pledged to maintain his routine of going to the gym, eating and then settling down to watch a film.

"It helps that I've been in this position before and I've been able to get the job done.

"I think whenever you have such a big lead you really can't think about anyone else but yourself.

"You have to think about how you're going to control your emotions, control whatever thoughts you have and focus on what you need to do."

His focus could not be questioned midway through his third round when it seemed his cloak of invincibility was slipping.

"I knew Rickie was playing well in front and then I saw on 12 he got to within one of me and then I bogeyed the hole and it was tied," he said.

"But I never panicked. I didn't feel uncomfortable. I knew I had some holes coming up I could take advantage of and make some birdies.

"I was just very patient and waited for my chances and I was able to convert those.

"I was conscious that Rickie was getting a little closer or Sergio (Garcia) but it was nice to be able to come up with the goods when I needed them the last few holes."

Ten years ago McIlroy's dad Gerry and three friends each placed a £100 bet at odds of 500-1 that his son would become Open champion by the age of 25 but not even they could have expected that would mean he would be three-quarters of the way to a career grand slam.

That is what is being talked about now though.

"It would mean a lot of hype going into Augusta next year," said McIlroy.

"Not a lot of people have achieved the career grand slam and if everything goes the right way tomorrow to get to three-quarters of the way there is some achievement by the age of 25 (only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have done it).

"I'd be in pretty illustrious company. I didn't think that I'd even have the chance at 25 to go for three legs of the Grand Slam so I'm going to try to put all of that out of my head.

"It would be way too much to think about. First things first, just play a good solid round of golf tomorrow and if that means that I'm going to Augusta next year with a bit of hype, then so be it."

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