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McIlroy’s challenge fizzles out in the Augusta sunshine

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Knowing what he needed to do on moving day to be in the mix for Sunday at the Masters, Rory McIlroy didn’t hold back but his third round 71 was never going to be enough to move the needle on a hot scoring day at Augusta National.

“Today was just about executing the shots that I needed to and I felt that I did that maybe a little better than the previous two days. But I just haven’t been getting much out of my rounds, just making too many mistakes and been putting myself out of position,” he said.

McIlroy talked earlier in the week about over-reading and under-reading greens due to the wet conditions and that was the case again in his third round as his birdie putt on the 1st came up just short while another opportunity on the 2nd skimmed the edge of the hole to set the tone for a frustrating day for the Holywood star.

As the sun fought to break through the clouds on the first day of no rain for the week, McIlroy almost drove the green on the 350-yard 3rd but could only watch as another birdie chance passed him by.

He finally got the putter working with a 32-foot birdie putt on the par-3 4th but that’s where the good news ended on his front nine as he bogeyed three of his next four holes and turned in 38 strokes, not the 31 or 32 he needed to get himself into the golf tournament.

“The rough this year is about a quarter or half an inch longer than previous years and it’s hard to get control of your golf ball out of it and I haven’t driven it in the fairway enough to have control going into these greens.

“Usually the ball comes out a little bit spinny out of the rough here but with it being that bit longer, you get fliers and I’ve had a few this week. To be sort of guessing what distance your ball is going to go around here is never a good scenario.”

A birdie on 10 provided another highlight but it was immediately followed by yet another bogey on 11, leaving him on two-over par for the tournament.

An incredible recovery shot from the trees on the left at 13 set-up an unlikely birdie which lit the fuse for a mini-revival before a miraculous 30-foot birdie attempt down the slope on 14 came up just short, followed by a superb eagle on 15 made possible by a 225-yard second shot to 8-feet.

Another birdie on 16 took McIlroy to 2-under for the tournament and 4-under for his back-nine but true to form this week, there was another mistake to come that led to a bogey at the last. All told, the stories of his opening three rounds are all remarkably similar; plenty of birdies, a couple of eagles but too many mistakes as the wait goes on for a McIlroy Grand Slam.

“It’s not as if I’m playing bad golf. I mean I’m under par for the golf tournament but I’m just not enough under par. I’m just making too many mistakes, missing it left on the par-3 6th, putting myself out of position on a couple of the par 5’s, just a couple of things like that.

“This is a great golf course and all aspects of your game have to be really sharp to have a chance to win or score well around here.

“On a different day it could be a different result and it’s not as if anything is glaringly obvious that something is lacking in my game. It’s just been one of those weeks where I’ve not gotten the momentum that I need.

“I’ll go out and play a good round of golf tomorrow and try and finish the week on a positive note.”

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