Rory McIlroy has credited his “inner calmness” with his fine finish to his third round of the Open Championship, after a round of 68 left him with a six-shot lead going into the final day.
McIlroy went into the third day leading by four strokes, and his lead was pegged back by Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia at times on Saturday.
However, a fine run of six threes in eight holes, and two late eagles, meant McIlroy ended the day six strokes ahead of Fowler.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport after the round, McIlroy said he he had remained patient after what he described as a “steady start” and other players having eaten into his lead.
“I just knew I had to keep it nice and solid,” Mcilroy said. “I knew there were chances coming up for me on the back nine. I stayed patient up until that point. I knew going into the last few holes I could make a few birdies and make a few shots here, and it was nice to be able to do that.”
McIlroy has talked about finding “an inner peace” at Hoylake earlier in the tournament, and this was evident again on Saturday.
“I never panicked today, even when guys were getting close to me, and my lead was cut, and I was tied for the lead at one point; I never panicked.
“And that’s what I’m talking about with just a bit of inner calmness, or peace, just comfortable with my game, comfortable with the position that I’m in.”
"I knew going into the last few holes I could make a few birdies and make a few shots here, and it was nice to be able to do that" - Rory McIlroy
He said that experience of winning and being in contention t previous majors had stood to him as his defended his lead.
“Knowing that I’ve been in this position before, and had the experience; it definitely, each you play in tournaments like this, and you’re in positions like this, it gets a little easier, and that’s what I’m finding this week.”
Although he had commanding lead, McIlroy was keen to avoid complacency, and highlighted that the six-shot advatage could be pegged back easily.
“Six shots over 18 holes isn’t that much,” he said. “If Rickie had played the last few holes a little bit better that six shots would have been one or two shots.
“I know what can happen. I’ve been on the right end of turning a deficit around [at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth], and I’ve been on the wrong end, of someone catching me.
“It’s just a matter of going out and controlling what I can control tomorrow, which is myself and my golf game. And if I can do that again for the fourth straight day, then hopefull y that’s good enough.”