DUBLIN, Ohio — Rory McIlroy has 23 PGA Tour wins, including four major championships.
But the Northern Irishman has one void on his resume he would like to fill.
McIlroy has never gotten that victory handshake from Jack Nicklaus at the Memorial Tournament.
That is now within his reach. McIlroy shot a 2-under 70 Saturday and shares the third-round lead at Muirfield Village Golf Club with Si Woo Kim and David Lipsky at 6-under.
McIlroy, 34, has never finished better than tied for fourth at the Memorial in 11 previous tournaments.
“It would mean a ton to me to win this tournament,” he said. “I’ve played pretty well here over the years without really having a realistic chance to win. So to be able to walk up that hill from 18 and get that handshake from Jack would be pretty nice.
“I won Arnold (Palmer)’s tournament a few years ago, but he had already passed by the time. So it would be so nice to be able to do it and have Jack be there.”
It has been a grind to the top of the leaderboard for McIlroy. A solid opening round Thursday ended with a triple-bogey when he was stuck with a horrid lie off the 18th green to leave him at even par. McIlroy followed that with a 68 to put himself in decent shape for the weekend.
McIlroy is one of the most gifted drivers in the game, but he has fought his swing lately. He has often throttled down this week.
“This course is still very playable from the fairways,” he said. “I’ve done a good job this week of keeping the ball in play, hitting a lot of 3-woods, a lot of irons off the tee. What I need to do tomorrow is just stick to that game plan, not get ahead of myself, not get too aggressive. If I stick to the game plan I’ve played with the last three days, I’ll (have) a great chance.”
McIlroy scrambled particularly well Saturday.
“I don’t think I hit a green from the eighth hole through the 14th hole, and I played those holes in even par,” McIlroy said.
He chipped in for birdie on No. 12, which made up for a bogey on No. 10. McIlroy sandwiched a bogey on No. 16 around birdies on 15 and 17. On No. 18, he made a 9-foot par putt.
PERFECT touch from Rory
— Golf on CBS (@GolfonCBS) June 3, 2023
McIlroy will be in the final pairing with Kim.
“It’s a big tournament, and I’ve got quite a bit of experience in that,” he said. “You would like to think that gives you a little bit of an advantage. (But) regardless of where you are in the tournament, this golf course makes you a little uncomfortable anyway, so everyone’s going to be feeling like that.”
Twenty-two players, including Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth, are within three shots of the lead.
“With the way the leaderboard is and how bunched it is, it’s just going to come down to who can sort of hold their head (up) the most coming down the stretch,” McIlroy said.
If it’s him, that coveted handshake from Nicklaus will await.