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Rory McIlroy admitted a first victory in Scotland was long overdue as he took a slender lead into the final day of the £7m Genesis Scottish Open.
A third round of 67 ensured halfway leader McIlroy remained the man to catch at The Renaissance Club on 13 under par, with South Korea’s Tom Kim a shot behind and Tommy Fleetwood and Brian Harman another stroke back.
World No 1 Scottie Scheffler and former Open champion Shane Lowry are part of a five-way tie for fifth on 10 under, with tee times brought forward several hours on Sunday due to the forecast for winds gusting up to 40mph.
McIlroy threatened to forge a bigger advantage when he covered his first 10 holes in four under, but covered the last eight in one over as the top 17 players ended the day separated by just five shots.
“I felt like I played really good golf for those first 11 holes and made that first bogey on 12 and it was a little scrappy coming in from there,” McIlroy said.
“But overall another solid day’s play and put myself into a great position going into the final day.
“There’s a lot of great players behind me but it’s going to be difficult for everyone. When the wind gets like that there’s a lot of skill involved but it’s also just attitude and trying to stay upbeat when you’re probably going to get bad breaks here and there.
“The guy with the best attitude is going to have the best chance.”
Asked about the prospect of winning on Scottish soil for the first time, McIlroy added: “It would be great. I’ve had a lot of close calls in Opens and Dunhill Links and all sorts of stuff, but it would be fantastic.
“I remember playing my first Scottish Open at Loch Lomond in 2005. It’s nice to reminisce and I’ve come a long way since then, but 18 years is too long for me to not pick up a trophy in this country.”
A month after charging through the field with a closing 63 in the US Open, Fleetwood matched that score thanks to eight birdies and a solitary bogey at a venue where he finished fourth last year and lost out in a play-off in 2020.
“I’m very happy,” said Fleetwood, who started on the 10th and birdied two of his last three holes on the front nine. “Those last three holes are tough so it was great to get on the right side of those and finish strong.
“On Friday when I made that double bogey on eight I was level par for the tournament with 10 holes to play and at that point the first port of call is to make the weekend.
“Played really well from there on in and then today got a bit of momentum going. It was just one of those days where things go more your way than others.”
Lowry would have been alongside Fleetwood but for a bogey on the last, the 36-year-old having earlier carded five birdies and an eagle on the 10th.
“I didn’t play great on Thursday and just found something in the middle of the round yesterday and got it going,” Lowry said.
“I’ve been rolling a few putts in which is always nice. Some lovely stuff over the last few days and plenty of confidence builders to take into The Open next week.
“But obviously first and foremost, tomorrow I’d love to go out and give myself a chance to win this tournament. It’s obviously a huge tournament for us in Europe and one that I would love to add my name to.”