McIlroy turns on style in pursuit of Casey
Rory McIlroy has not got where he is in such a staggeringly short space of time by weighing up a challenge on a Sunday morning and concluding: "Nope. Impossible. Back to bed." Yet even Master Indefatigable might arrive here today and concede that the odds are stacked against him, and indeed anyone but Paul Casey, winning the BMW PGA Championship.
Casey is three ahead of the Dane Soren Kjeldsen, four clear of McIlroy and on 13-under is looking every inch the world No 3 he will become if and when he collects the £667,000 first prize here this evening. A 67 in yesterday's third round was quite magnificently assembled. It was bogeyless and – but for a blip of two three-putts on the last two greens – nerveless and screamed of a professional at the very top of his game. Nobody need tell McIlroy of Casey's remarkable start to 2009.
The 20-year-old does not just have the secret of golf at his magical fingertips, but also the stats. Listen to him reeling off the Casey factfile.
"Paul started off this year at 41st in the world and if he wins tomorrow he'll be up to third," said McIlroy. "He won in Abu Dhabi in January, Houston in April and in between finished runner-up to Geoff Ogilvy in the World Match Play. Let's just say he's playing fantastically and will be very hard to beat."
Still, if anyone is capable of it – and his name is not Tiger Woods – then it could just be McIlroy, who would at 20 years and 20 days become the youngest winner in the event's 54-year history. Certainly his 65 on this benign Saturday was the stuff of stirring fightbacks.
On Thursday, he complained of "not trusting my swing" and of "not seeing the shots". It is fair to deduce he trusts his swing now. And the shots? Well, he happens to be seeing them with all the vividness of a fortune-teller in a Tardis.
"That was very close to my very best," said McIlroy. "I hit all the shots I wanted to. I was fading it off the tees, drawing it off the tees, hitting all the shots. There was a moment out there, when I sort of felt that, yeah, I was back to nearly 100 per cent.
"It was on the par-three fifth and I hit a five-iron up into the air, started it on the TV tower and turned it back right on to the pin. It was exactly what I said to my caddie I'd do. And I turned to him and said, 'That was very, very good'."
It summed up his day. Five birdies arrived on the back nine for the week's best score.
It was a mightily impressive charge by the young man and one that an old man threatened to emulate. Colin Montgomerie, now ranked all the way down at 182nd, skipped through the first 12 holes in five-under par and, at that stage, he was tied for second. Alas, bogeys at the 13th, 15th and 16th saw the momentum switch. So the skip turned into a slouch, the smile into a scowl and when he only birdied one of the two closing par-five holes, a 65 had turned into a 69.
At five under for the tournament, Montgomerie knew his fate. "It's disappointing as I had a good chance of getting into contention but now I'm far too far back," he said. "All that is left to play for is to make it respectable." He might even wish to preserve some energy while he is doing it. Tomorrow Montgomerie will be teeing it up at Walton Heath in the 36-hole US Open qualifier.
As will Nick Dougherty. The 27-year-old's 67 moved him up to the same mark as Monty and proved he is clearly in form. Indeed, the BBC were impressed enough to invite him up to the commentary booth. Dougherty refused and was heard to say, "I'm not going if he's there. "
The "he" referred to was the veteran commentator Peter Alliss. A year ago at this event the pair were involved in a slanging match – conducted, as ever, in the press – after Dougherty had taken exception to some of Alliss's on-air criticisms. Dougherty labelled Alliss "out of touch" and Alliss responded by labelling Dougherty "so bloody delicate". The feud goes on. As does Casey.
Tip of the week
No 2: Pitching: Don't be afraid of the "bounce"
All golfers fear the thinned shot across the green and they blame the sand wedge for having too much bounce. But using a wedge with too little bounce can lead to a lifetime of heavy 'fatted' shots.
Using your sand wedge, position 70 per cent of your weight on to your left side (for right-handers) with the ball towards the right foot, with a narrow stance.
Open your stance a little (to the left) and make a steep backswing. With a steep downward blow, feel like the back part of the club's flange strikes the ground under the ball (not the leading edge).
You are now using the club's bounce and you will see a high- flying, soft-landing shot, with ample follow-through.
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey
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