Rory McIlroy shoots 2 under, trailed by 1 shot after players Championship Round 3

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Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy celebrates a birdie on the eighth hole in the third round of The Players Championship golf tournament on Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Swing Update Photo / Lynne Sladky)

Lynne Sladky / Associated Press

Rory McIlroy overcame a slow start to stay in the running with two players under 70 in the third round of the 2019 players' championship on Saturday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

McIlroy, who has 14 holes under 54 holes, opened with bogeys back to back after a day tied with Tommy Fleetwood at the top of the standings. He recovered well to stay within easy reach of leader Jon Rahm on Sunday.

The four-time major champion is looking for his first win in 2019 despite five consecutive finals in the top six.

For a player who has struggled to overcome the lump this weekend, two quick little bogeys have certainly not been what McIlroy had envisioned from the third round.

That's why his shot rolled into the third hole, just under 14 feet, was probably his most important shot of the day. This not only allowed him to recover a shot immediately, but it helped him get rid of the negative waves before the turn and, potentially, his chances of winning the title could vanish.

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Trust shot.

After a bogey-bogey start, @McIlroyRory gets a return on the # 3.

#QuickHits https://t.co/3pkPQp6Xed

McIlroy was forced to lose points for most of the day because he had trouble getting out of the tee. He found only 28.6% of fairways after exceeding 70% in each of the first two rounds.

These sorrows make her ability to stay firmly in the mix even more impressive. His iron game was the X factor. He still managed to find 72.2% of the greens in the settings while playing most of his second shots.

In all, he scored four birdies and no boguey from the third hole.

McIlroy has managed to avoid setbacks all week with only three bogeys up to now, including a blank dashboard on Thursday. Sunday's key will therefore be more consistent work with the driver to create chances of being a birdie rather than having to fight to save the normal.

If he manages to reduce his fairway percentage to more than 70, there's a good chance he's finally in the winning streak after knocking on the door all season. His last PGA Tour victory was almost a year ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.