It’s been a rough year for 54-hole leaders on the PGA Tour, which does not bode well for Rory McIlroy’s chances to win a second major championship on Sunday.
McIlroy is at 7 under, carrying a three-stroke advantage over Carl Pettersson into the final round, already underway on Kiawah Island.
No 54-hole leader in a major this season has gone on to win the title. At the Masters, Peter Hanson did not walk away with the green jacket. Jim Furyk didn’t earn a second U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. And Adam Scott limped into Lytham’s clubhouse with four consecutive bogeys to hand the Claret Jug to Ernie Els.
Could McIlroy become the first?
He’s batting .500 with the 54-hole lead in a major. He won the U.S. Open last year by eight shots, while succumbing to a triple-bogey 7 on the 64th hole of the Masters in 2011.
A McIlroy win would also buck a predominant trend of failure by 54-hole leaders on the PGA Tour at large this season. Just 11 of 34 third-round leaders went on to win.
On Wednesday, the Ulsterman spoke of the change in mindset that accompanies a Sunday lead.
“For three days, you’re just playing, you’re playing golf and you’re not really thinking about the result,” he said. “You’re just trying to get yourself into that position and when you get yourself into that position, that’s when the pressure comes and when you have to finish it off.
“So obviously the fourth day of any tournament, if you’re in contention, it does feel a little different than the first three days, and you just have to handle that well.”