McIlroy didn’t make as many as he expected, a common refrain for most players, though he has raw numbers supporting him. One day after missing nine putts from 10 feet or closer, McIlroy missed an eagle attempt from just over 3 feet and a birdie putt from 5 feet as he was trying to build a cushion at The Renaissance Club.
“I’m still in a really good position,” McIlroy said. “As I said, I feel like I’ve left a few out there. But I mean, it’s hard to be disappointed when you’re in the lead going into the final day. I’ll certainly take it.”
McIlroy was at 13-under 197 as he bids for his first professional victory in Scotland. He has never finished in the top 10 in seven previous tries as a pro, and he has three runner-up finishes in the Dunhill Links. He has four top-five finishes in Open Championships held in Scotland.
Kim made everything he needed to for a 67, and that’s what kept him in the game. He said he didn’t hit the ball as well as he did the previous day and often was out of position but was most pleased that he hung around and managed a bogey-free round.
That was in jeopardy on the par-4 18th hole when Kim missed the fairway to the right and found himself in a nasty lie to the left, but he walked off with a par and a fist pump after making his putt from about 10 feet.
“I felt like that putt was the cherry on top because I fought so hard just to get everything out of that round,” Kim said. “To be able to walk off with a par … that was huge, obviously, with momentum and everything. Puts me in a good spot to have a chance tomorrow.”
Starting times were moved up to early morning Saturday because of heavy rain expected in the afternoon. The Sunday forecast called for wind of around 30 mph, and that was before gusts. The Sunday start is 6:45 a.m., even earlier than the third round.
That could bring others into the mix, and there is a long list of candidates.
Tommy Fleetwood was in the first group out and posted a 63 that put him at 11-under 199, two shots out of the lead and tied with Brian Harman (67). Fleetwood didn’t get off to the best start and now has played his last three nines in 32-32-31.
Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world, found himself eight shots behind late on the front nine with very little going right. But he birdied three of the last four holes, making a birdie from about 25 feet on the 18th hole, for a 67.
Scheffler was at 200 along with Shane Lowry (65), J.T. Poston (65), Eric Cole (64) and Byeong Hun An (69). An and Cole are the leading candidates to benefit from the three spots available for The Open for those not already exempt.
“I think if you flipped the round around the other way, I would feel a little bit bad about my positioning,” Scheffler said. “But when you have it the way I did today, where you have the good finish and stealing at least two shots on the last two holes, definitely a good feeling.”
Padraig Harrington, who started the weekend three shots behind, could manage only a 70 and fell six shots off the pace. Harrington has said he would abandon the PGA Tour Champions in a bid for Ryder Cup consideration depending on how he plays the Scottish Open and The Open next week at Royal Liverpool.
Also six shots behind was Sam Burns, who had the most misfortune. Burns was in a pot bunker left of the fairway on the par-5 10th when his shot slammed into the vetted side — and stayed there. It stuck as if it were plugged, though the ball was not embedded. He had to play it from there, and the ball went into the side again and back to the bunker.
He got the next out, missed the green and failed to get up-and-down to take triple-bogey 8.