Two birdies over his closing four holes at least have boosted Rory McIlroy’s hopes of a top-five finish in what has been a bitterly cold Masters Saturday.
McIlroy has been misfiring all week in the year’s first major championship, and it was not until late in his third round that he raised his arm into the air to suggest ‘Yes, I’m still here when he birdied both the par-5 13th and par-5 15h holes in a round of 71.
It was the only bit of warmth in McIlroy’s week on what was an overcast and bitterly cold third round at the 86th Masters.
“I played well, it’s just hard to go very low out there”, said McIlroy, sporting attire normally seen in October at the Dunhill Links in Scotland.
“It’s hard and anything under par is a good score. It’s just so blustery. There’s no easy birdies. Even the par-5s are not guaranteed 4s, but you feel like they’re holes that you would likely to pick-up shots on.
“The way the wind’s blowing, sometimes 5s is a good score and you just move on.
“Yeah, it’s been a tough couple of days, and I’ve just sort of hung in there as best I could. It’s not really conditions favourable for going low and trying to get close to the leaders. So, it’s just sort of hanging in there and doing the best you can”.
McIlroy ended his round moving back to one-over and lying just inside the top-10 as World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler made his way to the turn five shots clear of the field.
Among those hot on Scheffler’s tail were former Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, Aussie Cam Smith, who was joint runner-up two years ago, and Ireland’s own Shane Lowry.
McIlroy’s contesting a 14th Masters and his one-over 54-hole tally is the seventh occasion in a dozen Masters, and when he’s made the halfway cut, that has mirrored this week of not having broken 70 over the opening three rounds.
Naturally, his best Masters results have materialised when he’s been able to break par on any of the opening three days – 2011 (T15th when leading into day four), T5th in 2018 (Two sub-70s), and T5th in 2020 (Three closing sub-70s).
In fairness, the opening three days of the 86th host of the Masters have been made tougher by drenching rain ahead of the opening, strong winds over the first two rounds, and the sight on day three of patrons walking the course wearing so many layers as though it were the depths of winter rather than Spring.
Here’s hoping McIlroy can at least light the fireworks and show us all what he’s capable