Rory McIlroy conceded that Dustin Johnson has put his 2020 hopes of a green jacket out of reach despite carding a moving day 67 at the Masters. The American sets the target at 16-under par, four shots clear of the chasing trio of Cameron Smith, Abraham Ancer and Sungjae Im and eight clear of McIlroy.
The 31-year old Northern Irishman was in vintage form for a time on Saturday having raced to five-under par through 12 holes on his third round – eight-under par for the tournament – with the reachable par-5 13th presenting further opportunity to make inroads into Dustin Johnson’s lead. However, an errant drive forced a lay-up with McIlroy firing in a low wedge above the hole to about eight-feet for his birdie. After holing everything he looked at to that point, McIlroy would’ve been thinking about moving to nine-under with more chances to come on the way home but his luck ran out with his first putt racing three and a half foot by before his momentum was killed by missing the par-putt back.
The Holywood star then found the water on the par-5 15th before making par and although he brilliantly picked up another birdie after an arrowed approach at the par-3 16th, McIlroy could only par home, leaving him at eight-under par through 54-holes and a full X shots behind runaway leader Johnson. Too far back?
“Yeah, I mean, what’s DJ, 14? If he just plays his game, he’s going to get to at least 16,” McIlroy correctly predicted before Johnson carded a bogey-free 65 to reach 16-under par. “Yeah, eight shots, being a realist here, I just need to go out and shoot a good one tomorrow and see where it puts me, but I have zero thoughts about winning this golf tournament right now.
“I’ll just try to play a good round of golf. Just try to do the same thing I’ve done the last couple of days, go out and try to hit every fairway, try to hit every green, try to make a birdie on every hole if you can. You’re just trying to shoot the best possible score. That’s the way to win golf tournaments is to just keep doing that day after day. That’s what I’m going to try to do. As I said, I think I’ve left myself too far back after the bad first day, but you know, I’ll go and give it a good effort tomorrow and see where that leaves me.”
McIlroy was asked if he’d live to regret an opening round 75 given his rate of play over the past two rounds has been right on pace with the leader.
“Yeah, 11 under for the last two days, I think that sort of speaks for itself,” McIlroy added whose first round scoring since the 2015 tournament is 28-over par compared to a cumulative 61-under par between rounds two and three.
“The good golf was in there, I just didn’t allow myself to play that way on the first 18 holes. This course can do that. This course can make you a little bit careful and a little bit tentative at times. I’ve always said I play my best golf when I’m trusting and freer, and I’ve been a lot freer over the last 36 holes. I try to view everything as a learning experience, but yeah, I’ll look back at that and rue some of the shots that I hit and some of the thought processes I had and just try to learn from it and be better the next time.”
Meanwhile Shane Lowry fired his best round of the week, a four-under par 68 to move into a share of 20th at five-under par. The Open Champion has looked much more comfortable as the tournament’s gone on around Augusta and fired six birdies and two bogeys on Saturday as he looks set to smash his career best Masters finish of a tie for 39th in 2016.
- Full scoring HERE
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