Rory McIlroy happy with his resilience after fighting back from a poor start in Paris
WORLD number four Rory McIlroy was delighted with his resilience after recovering from a nightmare start to remain firmly in contention for a second win of the season in the 100th edition of the French Open.
McIlroy began the third round in a five-way tie for the lead but found himself eight shots adrift in the space of eight holes after a double bogey on the first, three bogeys and a solitary birdie.
However, after covering the front nine at Le Golf National in 40, the four-time major winner needed 10 shots fewer to complete the back nine thanks to five birdies which left him tied for second on six under par with Korea's Wang Jeunghun, two shots behind leader Thongchai Jaidee.
"I just could not get anything going on the front nine and with the way I'm feeling with my game, if it's good it's very good but if it's bad it's hard to get out of it," said McIlroy, who revealed after his opening 71 he had whittled 17 swing thoughts down to four or five as he continued to work on eradicating some "bad habits" which had crept into his game.
"It shows the fragile state of my game at the moment but to come back the way I did was really pleasing. It was more resilience than anything. I've hit enough good shots this week to know it's possible and I just needed to find a spark and get something going."
McIlroy had enjoyed a stroke of luck when his wayward opening tee shot stopped inches short of the lake to the left of the fairway, although from an awkward stance on the edge of the hazard he could only pitch out short of the green.
From there the 27-year-old almost pulled his approach into the water and then duffed a chip from the fringe to run up a double-bogey six, which he soon followed with a bogey on the third after driving into another hazard.
A birdie on the fourth repaired some of the damage, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth dropped him eight shots behind Wang, who had birdied four of the first seven holes in pursuit of a third European Tour title of the season.
"I knew if I could hit a few fairways and greens the last few holes were not playing quite as difficult as usual due to the wind and the birdie on 11 was big," added McIlroy, who also picked up a shot on the 13th before a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th.
"I wanted to hole that birdie putt on the last to get into the final group, but any time you can shoot five under on the back nine here is a great finish and I'll be in the group ahead and will try to give them something to shoot at."
Jaidee, who was 10th here last year and second in 2014, carded a flawless 68 to take over at the top of the leaderboard as Wang, who won back-to-back events in Morocco and Mauritius earlier this season, dropped three shots in four holes.
Defending champion Bernd Wiesberger recovered from bogeys on the first two holes to shoot 70 and end the day three shots off the pace, with Martin Kaymer, Alex Noren, Joost Luiten, Brandon Stone and Andy Sullivan - who holed out from 187 yards for an eagle on the 18th - all two shots further back.
Lee Westwood was another stroke behind after a 67 which was initially reported as a 73, the former world number one being mistakenly credited with playing partner Thomas Bjorn's triple bogey on the 15th and double bogey on the 17th.
"I wondered why the TV cameras hadn't come rushing out when I was four under for the day," joked Westwood, who looked set to miss the halfway cut midway through his second round but carded a hat-trick of birdies on his back nine and fired six more on Saturday to lift himself into contention.
"On my 10th hole yesterday I holed from about 10 feet to not go six over par. You can change it pretty quickly by hitting some good shots and playing well around here. I don't think any lead is comfortable around this golf course. There's danger and trouble everywhere."