Rory McIlroy is lurking just four shots off the lead after carding a “slow and pedestrian” one-under 70 in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club.
The Holywood star can wrest back the world number one ranking from Scottie Scheffler with a win and while he’s yet to find his A game, he still looks like a major threat.
As Shane Lowry returned to form and carded a second successive 69 to share 12th place on four under, and Séamus Power birdied two of his last three holes for a 70 that left him two shots inside the projected cut line in 33rd on one under, McIlroy cruised effortlessly around Riviera.
“Sort of slow and pedestrian,” he said after rolling in a 15-footer for birdie on the last on a day when play was suspended due to darkness with 14 players unable to complete their rounds.
“I played really well, tee to green, I feel like I’m right there. I feel like I’ve left a lot of shots out there the last couple of days; I just haven’t got any putts to drop. So it was nice to see that one drop at the last today eventually.”
McIlroy is four shots behind Max Homa, the 2021 champion, who carded a three-under 68 to lead by a shot from Keith Mitchell, Jon Rahm and Lee Hodges on 10-under par.
“I’m still sort of keeping myself within touching distance. It depends what the leaders do when they go out this afternoon and maybe how far ahead they get. Overall, like with how little I saw dropping, I’m still in a pretty good position.:
McIlroy didn’t hole a significant putt until his final hole and blamed Riviera’s notoriously difficult poa annua surfaces.
“Yeah, it’s just poa, misreads a little bit, just sort of having a tough time trusting my reads,” said McIlroy, who lost shots to the field on the greens for the second day running. “Like technically, I’m good. I think from like inside five or six feet, I’ve been really good. It’s just outside of that range, I haven’t really got a lot to drop.
“For me, I think that means more just reading the greens properly rather than anything technical, which is a good thing.”
He’s still ranked second for strokes gained from tee to green and plans to just keep plugging away over the weekend.
“I thought I certainly drove the ball much better today,” McIlroy added. “I didn’t play the par 5s as well today, I only played those in even par. Try to play the par 5s well.
“That’s the key to this golf course is birdieing the birdieable holes, I didn’t quite do that today. I made the birdies on the tougher ones, but hopefully, going into the weekend, I’ll sort of tidy all that up.”
While Tiger Woods was sitting on the projected one-over-par cut line after making three bogeys in his last four holes for a 74, Lowry was upbeat despite his bogey-birdie-bogey finish.
“Yeah, it was good,” said the Offaly man, who is coming off back-to-back missed cuts in Dubai and Phoenix. “I have a sour taste in my mouth now after that finish, but when I sit back this afternoon, it’s a lot different than it was this time last Friday.
“I was sitting at the Phoenix Open at nine over par, so I managed to find something in my game this week. And I’ve come to a golf course I’ve not done that well on in the past, and I’ve played some nice golf, so I’m pretty happy with myself.”
Lowry, who has a new caddie in Darren Reynolds, said he ironed out a technical issue that allowed him to rediscover his fade.
“My alignment was a little bit off last week and a new caddie on the bag and my coach wasn’t there, so didn’t really have the eyes that have been there for the last few years,” he said. “Then my coach arrived on Sunday and managed to fix a few things and managed to get my little fade going in and I’m hitting some nice iron shots again.
“Yeah, I’m pretty happy with how I’ve played this week. As I said, I’m a bit disappointed with how I finished today, but I think I’m in a nice position going into the weekend.
Lowry has lacked confidence this season, but he says it’s returning after getting back to basics with his swing.
“It’s all, like it’s never going to be far away. It’s all about the basics for me and getting myself upright,” he said. “My alignment was a little bit off last week. It felt a long way off, but it wasn’t.
“When I got out this week and start hitting some good shots again, I was determined to gain my confidence back and start going for those shots that I wasn’t going for last week. Yeah, it’s been a nice couple of days of golf.”
Lowry was frustrated by the slow pace of play and couldn’t resist pointing that out as he paid tribute to the late DP World Tour Chief Referee John Paramor, who died on Friday aged 67 after a battle with cancer.
“Yeah, it’s sad,” Lowry said. “I heard the news this morning. Obviously, I was quite surprised, I didn’t know he was sick, so it came as a shock to me and it’s very sad for everyone.
“It’s obviously very sad for his family and everyone on the DP World Tour. To be honest, I wish John would have been out there today, the pace of play might have been a bit better. He was always a great man at keeping the pace of play going well.
“Yeah, he was a great referee and just a great person. Yeah, sad day and my thoughts are with his family.”