Instead, he shifted into overdrive.
McIlroy recorded a birdie and two eagles in his final five holes to finish Saturday's third round at 16-under 200, taking a six-stroke cushion into the last day at Royal Liverpool.
His impressive closing stretch kept him well ahead of Rickie Fowler, who had pulled even midway through the round.
“I felt Rickie close to me. I was able to turn it on when I needed to,” the golfer from Northern Ireland said. “Now, it's about trying to control yourself, control your emotions, go out and play a good, solid round of golf.”
McIlroy entered Saturday's play with a four-stroke lead that evaporated as Fowler made seven birdies on the first 12 holes. But then McIlroy got hot and Fowler suffered three bogeys to finish at 10 under.
McIlroy's six-shot lead is the biggest at the Open since Woods' six-shot lead in 2000 at St. Andrew's.
Sergio Garcia played three under for the day and stands tied for third at nine under. Tiger Woods shot a one-over 73 to remain a distant three over.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson, hoping to make a move, is at one under.