Making his first ever start at the RBC Canadian Open this week, Rory McIlroy is suddenly in position for his second victory of the season.
The reigning Players champion shot 6-under 64 in Saturday’s third round to move into a tie for the lead at 13 under alongside Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar.
McIlroy missed the cut at last week’s Memorial Tournament for his first early exit since the 2018 U.S. Open, something he said opened his eyes to a few weaknesses in the days leading up to next week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
“I feel like I turned that missed cut into a positive,” McIlroy said. “Had a chance to work on (my weaknesses) and I needed to work on my wedge play, needed to work a little bit on my driver … they’ve started to come together and it’s why I’m at where I’m at on the leaderboard.”
McIlroy turned in his first bogey-free round since the Players Saturday at Hamilton Golf and Country Club while others atop the leaderboard failed to make much of a move.
Matt Kuchar shot 1-under 69 to maintain a share of the lead and put himself in position for a third victory this season. He tallied three birdies and two bogeys playing with Canadian and fellow 36-hole leader Nick Taylor, who fell to T-9 at 8 under following a 3-over 73.
Canadian Adam Hadwin also put himself in good position Saturday and is now just one shot off the lead following a 3-under 67. The 31-year-old from Saskatchewan has contended several times in recent years but remains idle at one PGA Tour victory, the 2017 Valspar Championship.
McIlroy’s emergence atop the board highlighted a thrilling Saturday, during which a few other stars turned in ho-hum showings ahead of the U.S. Open. Brooks Koepka is T-50 after a 2-over 72 in Round 3 and Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are T-17 and seven shots off the lead at 6 under.
Much of the golf world’s focus is already looking ahead to Pebble Beach, but McIlroy’s presence brings some serious intrigue to Sunday’s final round in Hamilton, Ontario.