By Mark Lamport-Stokes
BETHESDA, Maryland (Reuters) - U.S. Open front-runner Rory McIlroy has yet to win a major title but world number one Luke Donald has tipped his fellow Briton to be a multiple champion in golf's biggest events.
"I said it a couple of years ago when I first saw Rory, I think he is one of the greatest talents in the game right now," Donald told reporters after shooting a three-over-par 74 in Saturday's third round at Congressional.
"Just the way he swings and goes at it. I can see him winning a lot of times, especially majors. He has come close before and hopefully he's learned from that and he'll have a good solid weekend."
Northern Irishman McIlroy led this year's Masters by four shots going into the final round before tumbling out of contention with a closing 80.
However, he earned high praise for the gracious way in which he dealt with that bitter disappointment and he has stormed into a six-stroke lead in record-breaking style at the halfway point of this week's U.S. Open.
"It's not easy being so far ahead like Rory is but he's obviously playing great," said Donald, who finished his third round well before McIlroy was scheduled to tee off in the late afternoon at Congressional.
"It's tough but unusual being this wet and the greens are holding so much that it is favoring a guy who can drive it well and drive it long. Rory does that.
"Hopefully if he shoots anywhere around par, he'll have it (the U.S. Open) in the bag."
Donald was disappointed with his own form at Congressional where he arrived with high hopes after a string of consistent performances had lifted him to the top of the world rankings.
"I haven't had my best golf this week," the Englishman said after posting a seven-over total of 220 in the year's second major. "All facets of my game haven't been sharp enough.
"For what reason I'm not really sure. It's disappointing. I probably peaked too early," added Donald, who claimed his third PGA Tour victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February.
"I just haven't been getting up and down this week when I've missed the fairway or making that six-footer. It's just not gone my way this week."
(Editing by Larry Fine)