By Frank Pingue
AUGUSTA Ga. (Reuters) – Rory McIlroy’s quest to complete the career grand slam at this year’s Masters was on life support after the misfiring Northern Irishman failed to make a move during his third round on Saturday.
McIlroy, who began the day seven shots behind the co-leaders and in a share of 36th place, looked hesitant with his swing for much of the day and posted a one-under par 71 on an Augusta National layout that was soft and yielding low scores.
“I just haven’t been getting much out of my round. I’ve just been making too many mistakes,” said McIlroy, who is one under par for the week.
“I’ve been making the birdies, and doing the things that you need to do around here. If I’ve missed a green, I haven’t got it up and down or put myself out of position.”
The four-times grand slam champion made the cut by three shots and desperately needed a low round to get into the mix, and while he made a late move, a number of errant tee shots and missed putts early in the day all but ended his chances.
Barring a turnaround of epic proportions, McIlroy will have to wait at least one more year to complete his collection of major titles and join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as winners of the career grand slam.
“It’s not as if anything is glaringly obvious in terms of what’s lacking in my game,” said McIlroy. “It’s just been one of those weeks where I haven’t quite got the momentum that I needed to get.”
One of the top storylines coming into the Masters, McIlroy simply lacked the ball-striking prowess he is known for on a day when he needed it more than ever.
Despite arriving at Augusta National as the hottest golfer on the planet, McIlroy surprisingly showed mere glimpses of the confidence he displayed last month when winning the Players Championship.
He seemed headed in the right direction when he drained a 32-foot birdie putt at the par-three fourth but then made three bogeys over a four-hole stretch going into the turn.
He then went birdie-bogey to start the back nine before a red-hot run in which went four-under over a three-hole stretch, highlighted by an eagle at the par-five 15th. He closed, though, with his fifth bogey of the day.
McIlroy said he has no choice but to get aggressive in the final round where he will try to replicate the Masters record-tying front-nine six-under 30 that Tony Finau fired on Saturday.
“I’m going to need something like that tomorrow to maybe have a chance,” said McIlroy. “Yeah, I can play a good round of golf and finish the week on a positive note.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Ian Chadband)