GULLANE, Scotland — Rory McIlroy is well aware he first played in the Scottish Open in 2005 at Loch Lomond. He has come close to winning the British Open, including last year at St. Andrews, and the Dunhill Cup in Scotland, but never hoisted a trophy in the ancestral home of golf.
“Eighteen years is too long for me not to pick up a trophy in this country,” he said.
He moved a step closer to checking that box on Saturday, shooting 3-under 67 at The Renaissance Club during the third round of the Genesis Scottish Open to take a one-stroke lead over Tom Kim going into the final round.
McIlroy improved to 13-under 197 as he bids for his 24th career PGA Tour victory, which would tie him with Gary Player and Dustin Johnson for 26th on the all-time PGA Tour wins list.
But that first win in Scotland won’t come easy. The weather is expected to turn nasty with winds whipping as much as 40-50 mph, forcing tournament organizers to move up tee times in hopes of getting some golf played before the heavy stuff arrives. McIlroy admittedly has never been a player recognized as a talented wind player.
“I’ve become better over the years,” he said. “I would say there was a time when I wasn’t, but I feel like I’m definitely better than I was.”
McIlroy, who has recorded top 10s in each of his last five starts, continued to drive the ball beautifully but failed to capitalize on numerous chances to break the tournament wide open, especially on the back nine when he could’ve padded his lead.
“Second straight ‘what-if’ round,” observed CBS’s Dottie Pepper.
Added CBS’s Trevor Immelman: “You get the feeling he should be leading by five or seven strokes.”
McIlroy conceded there were some wasted shots and opportunities, saying, “I feel like I’ve left a few out there over the last couple of days, but at the same time, at least the last few holes, it was quite tricky conditions.”
McIlroy said it would be hard to predict a winning score until he got a better sense of the weather conditions, but said, “Anything in red numbers tomorrow is going to be a helluva score.”