McIlroy relishing 27-hole Kiawah test for a major title
KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina
KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - Joint leader Rory McIlroy faces a gruelling 27-hole test on the longest course used for a major in Sunday's final day of the PGA Championship but a shot at glory has him unconcerned by the marathon that awaits.
Rain suspended third round play Saturday with McIlroy having completed just nine holes and he will be back early on Sunday to finish it before beginning his final round at Kiawah Island.
"It's nice going into the final day, well hopefully, if we get it finished, in a great position," he said, reflecting some of the fear that storms may return to the South Carolina coast.
"It being 27 holes, I definitely don't mind that. I don't mind if it takes a while to get done. I am just in a great position going into Sunday and that's all I can really ask for."
After making five birdies, blemished only by a bogey on the par-four ninth, McIlroy knows he is in the kind of form that led to his only major win, at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman followed his impressive five-under 67 in the opening round with a 75 on Friday that was considered a decent score given the swirling wind that wrecked so many rounds.
On Saturday, though, McIlroy was back to his best, showing the form that eluded him at three previous majors this season, where his best finish was tie for 40th at the Masters.
Birdies on the opening two holes set the tone and it was only the dark clouds and rumbling thunder that kept him from what could have been an excellent score. He left the course with a six-under total for the tournament.
"It was a great start, the start that I was looking to get off to. I saw that a few guys early in the day got off to good starts and I wanted to try to do that too," he said. "To be four‑under through nine is great position to be in."
Words players described Friday's weather conditions and setup at the 7,676-yard Ocean Course included "brutal" and "gruelling" but McIlroy survived and took advantage of better scoring opportunities on Saturday.
"The conditions out there today were obviously a lot better than they were on Friday and some of the pin positions were a bit easier," said McIlroy.
"They moved the tees up a little bit, and the wind wasn't as strong. So I think those three things combined is why you saw the scores being a little bit better today."
Nonetheless, McIlroy did encounter a tangle with nature when his tee shot at the par-four third got lodged in tree branch.
For a few comic minutes McIlroy and his caddy searched the ground for a ball that television viewers could see was sitting high above them.
"I'm just glad I didn't try to play that ball today from the tree," said McIlroy, who injured his wrist when he struck the roots of a tree during last year's PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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