By Andrew Both
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy is finally back with a chance at the business end of a major championship, two strokes from the lead at the U.S. Open and in with a chance to end his long major drought.
The Northern Irishman thinks a three under par final-round at Torrey Pines on Sunday will probably be enough to claim his fifth major trophy, and first since 2014.
"I thought 68s over the weekend from where I was after Friday was going to have a good chance," he said after a four-under-par 67 that matched the best third-round score.
"I've done the first part of that job. Now it's up to me tomorrow to go out and try to play a similar round."
McIlroy seemed destined to join the list of golf's all-time greats when he piled up four major titles in his early 20s between 2011 and 2014.
But the well has run dry since, so much so that he has not really been in contention deep into the final round since the 2018 British Open at Carnoustie, where he tied for second.
He started solidly on Saturday but converted only one birdie chance on a quiet front nine.
On the back nine, however, the fireworks finally were sparked and he made his move with a couple of spectacular shots.
At the par-four 12th he pitched in for birdie from 30 yards, and as an encore at the par-five 13th his second shot from 260 yards clattered against the pin.
Though the ball ricocheted some 50 away, he two-putted for birdie, only to yank his drive a couple of holes later into rattlesnake country. He did well to salvage bogey after taking a penalty stroke.
"This is the only tournament in the world where you fist pump a bogey," said McIlroy.
"There was really one loose shot out there, the drive on 15, but apart from that, it's one of the best rounds of golf I've played in a while.
"I'm just excited for the opportunity to have a chance."
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by William Mallard)