Is the field in fear of Rory McIlroy?

August, 9, 2014

Adam ScottAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesAdam Scott pulled within shouting distance of the lead with a 5-under 66 on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Fresh off a bogey-free round of 5-under 66 Saturday at Valhalla, Adam Scott confronted this unforgiving truth:

Odds are he is not going to win the PGA Championship.

"I'm probably too far back," he said, "unless there's something special in there tomorrow."

Scott did something pretty special in reaching 7-under at the end of his third round, moving up the PGA leaderboard and into the conversation about players who can threaten from back of the Sunday pack. But in assessing his chances, or non-chances, Scott was also factoring in the presence of the man who just replaced him as the world's No. 1 golfer, Rory McIlroy, who was only in the early stages of his third round when Scott spoke.

Opponents are almost afraid of the freight train McIlroy became after his victories at Hoylake and Firestone. They talk about his power and his aim and his fearlessness in ways they talked about Tiger Woods' weapons back in the day.

And Scott has to be thinking: Wasn't this supposed to be me they were talking about?

When he won the 2013 Masters at age 32, ending Australia's drought at Augusta National, Scott was hailed as the next big action star in golf. He had leading man looks and a blacksmith's arms and, oh yeah, he even had Tiger's old caddie on his bag.

People lined up to declare that Scott was a surefire multiple major winner, that he had too much game to toss him into the one-and-done bin. But although he has had four top-10 finishes in the six majors that followed his Masters win, including three top-5s, Scott has proved just how difficult it is to win two Grand Slam events, never mind four.

At 25, McIlroy is 18 glorious holes from No. 4. He is so strong, and so long, that a Masters champ in his prime can come off a 67 that put him at 7 under -- right in the mix -- and concede that he's a long shot at best.

"Just needed a few more birdies," Scott said after delivering five of them.

Maybe he'll surprise himself Sunday with a brilliant closing round that supplants the kid who supplanted him. Or maybe McIlroy will just go ahead and show why everyone suddenly sounds so afraid of him.

Ian O'Connor

ESPN Senior Writer
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »