Rory McIlroy shows improved form but has work to do in Aberdeen

Rory McIlroy makes his way from the 7th tee during day three of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen
Rory McIlroy makes his way from the 7th tee during day three of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen

Rory McIlroy put the woes of another Friday ‘hoodoo’ behind him in the third round of the Scottish Open at Aberdeen to post a three under 68 on Saturday.

That was 10 shots less than his score on Friday which saw him go from top of the leader board in a 14-shot swing from Thursday after he had equalled the course record with a 64.

Darren Clarke posted a one-under 70, while Gareth Maybing finished on par after posting a two under 69. Michael Hoey was still on the course, showing one over for the day through the eighth hole

Meanwhiel, Scotland’s Martin Laird neatly summed up the challenge of Royal Aberdeen after a rollercoaster third round.

McIlroy said: “McIlroy parred his final two holes to complete a 68 and finish three under, with Karlsson four under after a 67 and Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal setting the early clubhouse target on five under after a superb 66.

“I didn’t get off to a great start, being one over through two holes when you are looking to be one under, but after that I played very solidly and did not put myself in too much trouble,” McIlroy said.

“I’ve shot 64 and 68 on this course which are two really good scores. Yesterday was just one of those days when nothing went right and I couldn’t get any momentum. It would be good to shoot another good round tomorrow, but I’ve seen enough in my game to give me confidence going into the Open.”Laird made the halfway cut with just a shot to spare after rounds of 70 and 73, but in a packed field was just seven off the overnight lead shared by fellow Scot Marc Warren, Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg and Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez.

When he raced to the turn in 31 with five birdies in eight holes the US-based 31-year-old was just two off the pace, but a back nine of 39 meant he had to settle for a 70 and level-par total of 213.

“It was a tale of two nines,” said Laird, who claimed his third PGA Tour title in the Valero Texas Open last year, a closing 63 holding off the challenge of Rory McIlroy.

“I finally took advantage of the front nine with the best golf I have played in a long time, but the back nine is very, very hard. I made one bad swing and picked one bad club and it cost me four shots.

“Even if I had shot one over and got in at three or four under I would be in a good position to try and win the tournament tomorrow.”

McIlroy had taken 40 shots to cover the back nine in his second round of 78 and with the wind blowing in the same direction, Laird added: “I’m not going to be the only one. Everyone is making birdies on the front nine and struggling on the back.”

Half of the tee times had been delayed by 20 minutes due to mist rolling in from the North Sea, meaning overnight leaders Kristoffer Broberg, Ricardo Gonzalez and Marc Warren were just beginning their third rounds.

The trio had been joined at the top of the leaderboard when Sweden’s Robert Karlsson also went to the turn in 31, but the former European number one then ran up a double-bogey six on the 13th.

Playing partner McIlroy, whose run of poor Friday performances after excellent opening rounds continues to be a mystery, had recovered from a three-putt bogey on the first with four birdies to lie just three off the lead on three under.

And defending champion Phil Mickelson was also three under after following a bogey on the fourth with a birdie on the next and eagle on the par-five sixth.