Rory McIlroy made a late charge into a top-10 finish at The Open and declared himself satisfied heading towards the final major of the year in 10 days at the PGA Championship.
Ireland’s world number four saved his best scoring until the final round as he finally got the better of Royal Troon’s difficult back nine and carded a four-under-par 67 to claim a share of fifth.
McIlroy, 27, had started the week dreaming of regaining the Claret Jug he first won at Hoylake in 2014 but found himself unable to live with the pace set by Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson.
He finished his bid at four under par as the duelling leaders separated themselves further from the field on a compelling last day in Scotland but will leave for the United States confident of continuing his improvement at Baltusrol in New Jersey in the major that labels itself as Glory’s Last Shot and has been won twice already by the Holywood star.
“I’ve missed a few short putts this week, but I’m not really putting that down to anything,” McIlroy said. “I think I just need to put a little bit of work in and just maybe just be a bit more confident over them.
“But tee to green was good, and I can only be positive going into Baltusrol. I’m playing well. I’m driving the ball well. I think that’s a big thing, especially with the PGA coming up. The PGAs are usually if you can drive the ball well, you’ll do well, and I’ve had success in that tournament before, so I’m really happy with that.
“I’ll go there feeling pretty good about myself.”
The four-time major champion said that despite opening with a two-under 69 on Thursday, his second-round level-par 71 combined with Mickelson’s 63-69 and Stenson’s 68-65 starts had effectively ended his hopes of victory.
“After the second day, I was never going to win this golf tournament. Look what the guys have done. There’s no chance of me getting to that score.
“So to finish as high (as I could) that was the goal, to finish as high up as I could this week.
“I sort of forgot about the Claret Jug and just tried to focus on finishing as high as I can, and felt like I did that pretty well today. As I said, I can be positive about my game going into the last major of the year.”
McIlroy suggested the desperation for him to succeed was not his but the media’s when he was asked how much he needed to lay down a final-round marker ahead of the PGA.
“I want to win. I want to play well. I think you guys are more desperate for it to happen than I am. But I’m happy with everything. I’m happy with where my game’s at.
“All I can do is keep plugging away. I feel like it’s heading in the right direction.
“Bar the missed cut at the U.S. Open, my results have been decent the last few times I’ve played. I mean, win at the Irish Open, fourth at Memorial, I had the missed cut but then third in France and it’s going to be a top five here. So there’s not that much wrong. It’s really close.
“I’m staying positive about it. I feel like good things are happening and if I can drive the ball, like I did this week, at Baltusrol and sharpen up a few bits and pieces, I think I’ll be right there.”
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