Rory McIlroy seems determined to make Luke Donald’s job easier Ryder Cup later this month.
Not only will the European captain be delighted that the world No.2 on Saturday allayed fears of his latest back complaint with a 66 at the K Club to put him in contention at the Horizon Irish Open, but McIlroy also added some clarity to one of the Europe captain’s main dilemmas in suggesting he is ready to partner compatriot Shane Lowry in Rome.
McIlroy suffered muscle spasms at his last outing, the Tour Championship in Atlanta, two weeks ago, and arrived in the Dublin admits he had barely practiced since and “wasn’t fully recovered – I’m probably 90 percent.”
But with a six-under effort that included birdies on the final two holes, McIlroy cut his eight-shot deficit at the start of the third round to just two going into Sunday’s showdown as he bids to win his national open for the second time on the famous Dublin layout.
“Last night I thought maybe I was too far behind and out of it, but I’ve played a really good round to get back into it,” said McIlroy, at 11 under.
German Hulry Long (70) leads the way on 13-under, one ahead of England’s Jordan Smith (73). The Irish crowd will turn out in large numbers to cheer on McIlroy and Shane Lowry, who are on eight under after a 72.
It’s been a fine effort by Lowry, especially in the wake of the controversy created by his wild-card selection on Monday. Donald had to pick the 2019 Open champion – with just one top-10 all year – over Pole Adrian Meronk, who has won three times in the last 16 months, including at Marco Simone, the Ryder Cup’s host venue, four months ago.
Anders is an unabashed admirer of Lowry’s ball-striking, short game and personality. And the 36-year-old’s affinity with McIlroy, his former teammate on the Irish amateur team, could also have been a factor in his choice.
McIlroy partnered Lowry in the final match and although they lost heavily in Friday’s fourballs, he clearly wanted the chance to hit it up with his childhood friend again. Especially as McIlroy’s two other recent partners – Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia – will be absent due to their exclusion due to the LIV Golf series.
“Absolutely yes,” McIlroy told Golf Digest. “Poults and Sergio were passionate and had so much energy … To have someone like that next to you and know that they would do something at the right time; that something was always going to happen. I definitely get that feeling with Shane.”