In sports circles it is always said that your home spectators are an additional player and your greatest ally.
Over the past few days on the K9 course in Kildare, Ireland’s favorite boy Rory McIlroy experienced it anew in the Irish Open golf tournament.
McIlroy, who won the Irish Open in 2016 when it was last decided on the K9 course, shot ahead in the third round as the leaders lost their grip in the windy conditions.
McIlroy, who was eight shots behind Jordan Smith (England) and Shubhankar Sharma (India) at the halfway mark, moved up to within two shots of the new leader, Germany’s Hurley Long, with a score of 66 shots.
Long, who is only 252nd in the world rankings, completed 70 shots in the third round on his scorecard and is one stroke ahead of Smith (204, -12) at 203 (-13) with McIlroy third at 205 (-11).
Fisher, Sharma, Calum Hill and Grant Forrest (both Scotland), Julien Brun (France) and Ryan Fox (Australia) are joint fourth on 206 (-10).
Long has not been able to finish in the top 25 in any tournaments this year and has to fend off the onslaught of McIlroy, who is second in the world rankings and the thousands of Irish fans who stand firmly behind McIlroy.
Long fared the best of the other leaders as the final trio of Smith (73 shots), Sharma (74) and Ross Fisher (England, 75 shots) combined to finish nine shots over par.
Mcllroy’s round was not without drama.
He broke his 3-wood on the sixth hole and on the 16th hole (number 5) he hit his second shot into the water. He threw out after a penalty, but his approach shot hit a stone, which fortunately for him splashed back onto the course.
He birdied the last two holes.
According to him, it is difficult to win his country’s Open.
“I was lucky enough to get it right here a few years ago and those memories will motivate me. The support from the spectators helps a lot,” said McIlroy.
Of the South Africans, Thriston Lawrence (210, -6) performed best. He is followed by Erik van Rooyen (212, -4), Hennie du Plessis (21-4, -2) and Louis de Jager (215, -1).
* In the US LPGA Series decided at the Kenwood CC Kendale course in Cincinnati, Australia’s Minjee Lee is two strokes ahead of Peiyun Chien and Charley Hull (England) who are tied on 203 (-15) at 201 (-15) 13) ended.
Morgane Metraux of Switzerland is fourth at 204 (-12) with Yuka Saso of Japan and Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden joint fifth at 205 (-11).
South Africa’s Paula Reto is tenth on 208 (-8) after recording 69 shots in the third round.