On Friday night, Rory McIlroy thought he may be too far behind to catch up at the Horizon Irish Open. It turns out he has a chance to win once again at The K Club on Sunday.
McIlroy equaled the low round of the day, carding a 6-under 66 to move to 11 under and solo three. He entered the third round eight shots back, but on Sunday he is just two behind Hurly Long in the hunt for another Irish Open victory.
“It didn’t really feel like an accusation,” McIlroy said. “It just felt like a really solid day of golf where I gave myself a lot of looks and converted a few, which is probably the difference between the last two days and today. A really solid day’s play and I also needed a bit of help from the managers.”
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Jordan Smith and Shubhankar Sharma each sat at 13 under after the second round but struggled on Saturday. Smith dropped one shot and is solo second at 12 under, one behind Long. Sharma was 3 over and is T-4 at 10 under.
The 28-year-old Long was solid, carding a 2-under 70 to move into the solo lead. He is winless on the DP World Tour and is ranked 252nd in the Official World Golf Ranking. His best finish this season is 30th in Kenya. What’s with the strong play after 54 holes?
“You know, when we had the four weeks off, I practiced really, really hard trying to find something and, you know, thinking about what had gone wrong,” Long said. “I found some things that for me personally are some keys, having a plan. I played well this year. It wasn’t terrible, but it’s just that these guys are too good to be mediocre.”
Long is looking forward to the pressure and challenge of McIlroy chasing him on Sunday along with Smith and a host of others.
“Obviously the first two rounds, there weren’t too many people watching my group today, but there were a lot more and tomorrow obviously there will be a lot more,” Long said. “Yeah, I’m just looking forward to it. It’s a big stage, of course, but it’s going to be a lot of fun, I know that.”