Rory McIlroy doesn't usually have to deal with this stuff. Normally when he wins a major he grabs the lead, runs away from his competitors and cruises to victory. Even last month at the British Open it never seemed like McIlroy would actually lose the lead he built the first three days, and despite "only" winning by two shots, it was a fairly relaxing walk up the 18th at Royal Liverpool.
This time, it won't be. Not if Rory wants to take home a fourth major championship at the age of 25. This Sunday will be chaotic in every good sense of the world, a major championship that golf fans have waited for since Phil Mickelson's incredible Sunday at the British Open a year ago.
McIlroy is still leading, yes, thanks to three birdies over his last four holes on Saturday at Valhalla. Rory's golf swing wasn't nearly as sharp on Saturday, missing wide a few times off the tee and hitting some not-so-solid approach shots to greens. When Rory made his second bogey of the day on the 12th it really looked like he could let this lead slip away considering all the names charging up the leaderboard, but Rory buckled down and closed out his round much like he has each day of this incredible three tournament run.
Rory has now birdied his final hole all three days this week at Valhalla, changing a good round to a great one, and for Saturday, a decent one into an acceptable one.
McIlroy battled to post that 3-under 67, getting up and down from precarious spots multiple times in his round. His swing might have left him for a bit, but the true sign of a champion, a real, rare, champion, is what happens when things don't go well.
Now it's Rory's turn to battle for a title. Little known Bernd Wiesberger will play next to Rory, sitting just a shot back of the lead as he attempts to completely shock the world. If he wins, it would be the most bizarre major champion in the history of golf, but the focus for Rory will be on plenty of other names as well (and as you shake your head at the thought of a Wiesberger win, remember, he shot 65 on Saturday playing with Phil Mickelson, someone he said he looked up to as a kid).
Rickie Fowler will again be chasing Rory as he sits two shots back after a Saturday 67, and Phil Mickelson, a man without a top-10 on the PGA Tour, closed in dramatic fashion to land in that penultimate group with Fowler.
For Rory, this major will be his hardest. With a golf course as soft and scoreable as Valhalla is right now, McIlroy won't be able to settle for a score, he will have to go out and post something just as low as he has the first three days.
If McIlroy can do that, it will be a monumental year not just for Rory, but for the game of golf.
The final major of the year concludes in 24 hours, and for the first time this season, nobody has any idea who will walk away with the hardware as we get set for Sunday.
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