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AS IT STANDS -5 Hughes, Oosthuizen, Henley; -3 McIlroy, DeChambeau; -2 Scheffler, Rahm, Wolff; -1 D. Johnson, Morikawa, Bezuidenhout, Schauffele, Streelman. SELECTED OTHERS E Koepka, Thomas, Poulter, Casey; +1 Spieth, Westwood, Bland; +3 MacIntyre.

A total of 25 majors have come and gone since Rory McIlroy won the most recent of his four major championships.

Will Sunday be 26th time lucky?

The Northern Irishman goes into the final round of the 121st US Open trailing by just two shots from leaders Russell Henley, Mackenzie Hughes and Louis Oosthuizen. 

They are out in front on five-under, with McIlroy on three-under alongside defending champion Bryson DeChambeau. 

Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Matthew Wolff are a further shot adrift as they go in search of their first major titles, with world No.1 Dustin Johnson and 2020 US PGA champion Collin Morikawa in a small group of players on one-under.

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It has all the makings of a memorable finish – and how McIlroy would love it to fall in his favour. 

On the tenth anniversary of his major breakthrough at this same event in 2011, McIlroy produced a joint-best-of-the-week 67 – his lowest-ever third round in the US Open – to be neatly positioned to end his long major drought.

Should he do it, he would become the first player from outside the United States to win the US PGA and US Open multiple times each, as well as just the tenth player to win five men’s professional majors before the age of 33.

It’s a prospect he is absolutely relishing.

“I’m trying to think of the last time where I really felt like I had a chance,” he said. “Carnoustie in ’18, I felt like I maybe had half a chance, and going into the final day at Pebble in 2019. Apart from that, there have been some good finishes but I never felt like I was in the thick of things.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity to have a chance and be in one of the final groups.”

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McIlroy had dropped only one shot in his third round and, if there is such a thing as a good bogey, this was surely it.

His drive at 15 found the canyon down the left-hand side of the fairway, forcing him to take a penalty. He got down in three from 240 yards to salvage a bogey from what could have been something considerably worse. That, as he acknowledged, was a huge moment in both his round and title bid.

“This is the only tournament in the world where you fist pump a bogey,” added McIlroy. “Only losing one there was a big deal, and getting it up-and-down out of the bunker on 16 and making a birdie on 18 just to get that shot back that I lost was really big.

“I thought two 68s over the weekend, from where I was after Friday, was going to have a good chance. I’ve done the first part of that job. Now it’s up to me tomorrow to go out and try to play a similar round of golf.”

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Of course, McIlroy has an extra incentive to see the job through: Sunday is his first Father’s Day as a dad.

By coincidence, he won the Wells Fargo Championship last month on Mother’s Day in the US. How he’d love to do the parental double.

“Mother’s Day was pretty good to us a few weeks ago,” he noted. “Hopefully, we can have the same result on Father’s Day.”

And if you’re looking for another omen, consider this incredible nugget from golf stats guru Justin Ray:

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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