x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Positive round has Rory dreaming

Rory McIlroy has this mental picture of himself winning the individual title at this week's Dunhill Links championship and capturing the team event with his father, Gerry, on what will be Gerry's 50th birthday.

Rory McIlroy has this mental picture of himself winning the individual title at this week's Dunhill Links championship and capturing the team event with his father, Gerry, on what will be Gerry's 50th birthday. He knows he is asking a bit much but both feats are eminently possible. "I must stop myself from looking too far ahead but, especially with the last round being played over St Andrews, it would be huge, absolutely fantastic," said the winner of this year's Dubai Desert Classic. Yesterday, McIlroy took the early lead in the delayed third round by adding a 69 at Kingsbarns to earlier scores of 68 at Carnoustie and 65 at St Andrews. It was a performance to leave him on the same 14-under par mark as Luke Donald and Darren Clarke, both of whom had four or so holes to play. Because of the amateur playing companions they have at their sides, the professionals are mostly a tad out of their comfort zones this week. That, though, does not begin to apply to McIlroy, whose father has not only passed on a wealth of golfing rhythm to his son but at one point had three jobs on the go in order to fund his sorties to the annual junior age-group championships in Florida. It was on one of those Florida forays that Rory won the World Under 10 championships. Gerry, who looks every inch the two-handicap golfer he used to be until he virtually stopped playing to concentrate on Rory, left his best till the last hole yesterday. Having knocked his approach inside Rory's, he holed from 15 feet for the closing birdie which took the pair to 22-under par. Rory's front-half 36 yesterday was so up and down as to suggest that Saturday's 50 kph gusts were still in full swing. He had an eagle at the third but promptly dropped three shots in his next five holes. His homeward half, on the other hand, was steadiness personified - all pars and birdies. Though he had found the greens tough to putt, presumably because a fear of more gusts had prompted the tournament staff to leave them uncut, McIlroy has the feeling that his touch will be back at St Andrews. He has nothing but good memories to fuel him over the Old Course. Two years ago, he finished third in this Dunhill Links championship in what was only his third outing as a professional. And on Friday, of course, he had that 65.

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