Rory focused this time as US Open title awaits

The fact that Charl Schwartzel is 15 strokes back this time has nothing to do with Rory McIlroy’s focus ahead of the final round of this year’s US Open at Congressional Golf Club.

McIlroy’s record-breaking 14-under-par 54-hole total has given him an eight-shot cushion over YE Yang going into the final round of the second major of the year, and this time, there seems to be little or no chance of the 22-year-old imploding as he did when Schwartzel ran him down at the Masters.

“At Augusta, it was all a little bit new to me, going into the final round with the lead,” he said. “I didn’t know whether to be defensive, aggressive, go for it, not go for it, but now I know what I need to do, which is a great thing to have. I have a clear mind going out there tomorrow, and I just need to stick to my game plan.”

It was sticking to the game plan which made his third round the one that stretched the lead to a point which seems unassailable now, after his second round finished with a double bogey that probably had some people thinking that the cracks exposed by the Masters meltdown could reappear.

Instead, he took the third round and broke it down into smaller portions, keeping the bigger picture subservient to making sure he kept anything bad – from challengers to bogeys – at bay.

“What I did today, I tried to set myself a little target, little goals, just because it kept me from focusing on the leaderboard and focusing on how far ahead I was or anything like that,” he said. “So just giving yourself little goals throughout the round, that really kept me in the present and kept me focused on my game.”

And as he focused on his game, he tried to keep the swing that looks as if its the next dominant one in golf on track: “I’m really focusing on the process of making a good decision and making a good swing,” he said. “That’s all I’ve been trying to do, especially today, really lose yourself in that shot that you’re playing at that moment in time and not think about anything else.”

There were players with better rounds than his three-under 68 – notably Jason Day and Lee Westwood with 65s – but with the priceless cushion McIlroy had created with his opening 65 and his second-round 66, things are looking very one-sided right now.

Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is the best of the South Africans, 14 shots off McIlroy’s lead at level-par for the tournament, with Schwartzel on one-over.

Rory Sabbatini is two over, Retief Goosen four-over and qualifier Christo Greyling eight-over.

For the players who are closer to McIlroy’s target than the South Africans, Sunday will almost certainly be about playing for second.

That’s because the youngster is experienced now. “The more I put myself in this position, the more and more comfortable I’m becoming,” he said. “I’m definitely thinking a lot better out on the golf course and making better decisions.”

So don’t expect fireworks – just a victory march.

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