Rory McIlroy finds himself a few steps off the lead at the 2019 U.S. Open title after shooting 70 in Round 3.
The Northern Irish star entered the day tied for fourth and four shots behind leader Gary Woodland, and he couldn't close the gap Saturday at Pebble Beach, California, finishing six strokes under par for the tournament. He finished the day five strokes off the lead alone in sixth place.
While McIlroy was a favorite coming into the week thanks in part to his easy win at the RBC Canadian Open, it will likely be a serious challenge to earn another victory Sunday.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the third round for McIlroy is the fact he played much better than the score would indicate.
Robert Lusetich broke down the first part of his round:
He finished with 67 percent of greens in regulation while hitting 11 of 14 fairways during the round.
The challenge was just the inability to find birdies to match his opponents on this difficult course.
McIlroy got off to a rough start with a bogey on his first hole. He drove into the rough and couldn't recover, creating his only negative mark on the front nine in any of his first three rounds.
He got the stroke back on No. 6 when he crushed the ball off the tee on the par five. This represented his only non-par in a span of 13 holes.
This streak ended on No. 15, when he nailed a difficult 12-foot putt to get under par for the first time in the round:
A bogey seemed to kill his momentum on No. 17 when he hit it into the bunker on the par three and struggled out of the sand, but he responded once again with a great showing on the final hole.
A 313-yard drive helped McIlroy get on the green in two on the par-five 18, finishing it off with what became a short birdie putt to get him one under on the day.
The 30-year-old was as good as ever off the tee, ranking first in driving distance at 326.1 average yards, per USGA. Just as importantly at a U.S. Open, he kept it straight and didn't have to do much work in the rough.
If he wants to contend for a title, however, he will need to be just a little better with his approach shots to get near the hole and find some birdies. Otherwise, he can stick to his pars and will likely be happy earning a top-10 finish after missing the cut in each of the past three years at this event.