By Amy Tennery
MAMARONECK, N.Y. (Reuters) - Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy clawed his way back up the leaderboard at Winged Foot on Saturday, carding a two-under par 68 after a second round slump had threatened to derail his latest U.S. Open campaign.
The 31-year-old had to recover from a brutal performance on Friday that saw him stumble through with four bogeys and a double bogey on the front nine alone, before eventually shooting a six-over par 76.
Yet after putting up a near-flawless performance on Saturday, McIlroy now heads into the final round at one-over through 54 holes, still in contention for his first major title in six years.
"You're going to have stretches in U.S. Opens where you're going to make bogeys and you're going to make mistakes," he said.
"If you can back it up with stretches of golf like I showed there, that's what you have to do. It's not going to be all plain sailing in this tournament."
McIlroy is among a sizeable group who have managed the fearsome Mamaroneck course well, with its narrow fairways and fast greens posing a considerable challenge.
Geoff Ogilvy, the last U.S. Open winner at the New York course, won by a stroke in 2006 with a five-over par total. Yet with a handful of golfers still under par late on Saturday, the course had still not taken as heavy a toll as predicted.
"You've got to think 14 years on the game has changed a lot. Guys hit it further, equipment," said McIlroy.
"Scoring averages have gone down a little bit, on average. The game has just moved on a little bit and everyone has collectively, I think, just got a little bit better."
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; editing by Ian Chadband)