Rory McIlroy remains in contention for the US Open title as he heads into the final round trailing Bryson DeChambeau by three shots at Pinehurst No. 2.

He's had similar opportunities before, perhaps none as significant as at St. Andrews two summers ago, or last year at Los Angeles Country Club.

Despite the past heartaches, Sunday presents another chance for McIlroy, and while it doesn't guarantee success, it's everything he could hope for at this moment.

With 18 holes remaining in the U.S. Open, McIlroy stands a chance to break his major drought. At Pinehurst, he's in contention for the national championship, having recorded a one-under 69 on Saturday.

Tough round end for Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy lines up a putt on the third hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

McIlroy had a tough end to his round, with bogeys on the 15th and 17th leading to a score of 69. Despite this, he is hopeful about ending his decade-long wait for a major win.

“Yeah, just a really difficult US. Open Saturday,” McIlroy noted. “I think everything we expected it to be.

McIlroy's round was a mix of excitement and frustration. He aggressively attacked difficult pins and made some costly mistakes, including bogeys on both par 3s on the back nine, such as the one on the 17th. However, he maintained his composure while others, like Tony Finau and Ludvig Åberg, faltered.

“The course is getting crispy. Some of the pin positions are pretty tricky. Felt like a lot of them were cut on little crowns. There was a lot of uphill putts but then after the hole it went downhill, so pretty tricky to get the pace right. It caught me out a couple times,” said the 35-year-old.

Since his last major victory at the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, McIlroy has secured an impressive 20 top-10 finishes. While some of these were the result of strong Sunday rounds that helped him climb the leaderboard, it is his frequent closeness to winning in recent years that has made his major drought especially exasperating.

Ending a decade-long drought for McIlroy

In his last 10 major starts, McIlroy has finished T6 or better five times, including a runner-up finish at last year's U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. This sets up a similar scenario for McIlroy on Sunday at Pinehurst No. 2. He'll be in the penultimate group, just as he was last year, this time paired with another top talent, Patrick Cantlay, after playing alongside Scottie Scheffler in 2023.

“I love the test that Pinehurst is presenting, and you've got to focus and concentrate on every single shot out there. It's what a U.S. Open should be like. It's obviously great to be in the mix,” McIlroy remarked via Brian Keogh of Irish Independent.

McIlroy has finished ninth, eighth, seventh, fifth, and second in his last five U.S. Open appearances. He believes his patient approach to the game’s toughest major is finally paying off.

Rory McIlroy is tied for second, three shots behind the 54-hole leader Bryson DeChambeau, who has been commanding in his performance. McIlroy shares his spot with Patrick Cantlay and Matthieu Pavon. While McIlroy can certainly put pressure on DeChambeau and the rest of the field, he needs all the help he can get.

Since 2019, McIlroy's U.S. Open performance has been unmatched, even though he hasn't won. However, if DeChambeau wins on Sunday, it would be his second U.S. Open title in four years. McIlroy believes he can prevent DeChambeau from achieving that, but whether he can deliver on that belief remains to be seen.