Rory McIlroy’s pursuit of the career Grand Slam remained stuck in neutral Saturday.
McIlroy posted his first under-par round of the tournament with 71 in the third round of the Masters Tournament. Still, he dropped further off the pace.
The 27-year-old Northern Irishman began the day five shots from the leaders. With his even-par 216 total, McIlroy now trails co-leaders Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia by six.
“I’m going to need my best score around here, 65, and I’m going to need something like that to have a chance tomorrow,” McIlroy said. “I’ll be able to tell you better tomorrow night whether those missed opportunities hurt my chances. But I’ll have to go out and do my best tomorrow.”
McIlroy, No. 2 in the world, was trending in the right direction when he birdied Nos. 2 and 3 in the third round to get to 1-under for the tournament. His round came off the rails, though, when he found the bunker with his approach at the par-4 seventh. A wayward third shot left him with a 63-foot par attempt. From there, he three-putted for double bogey.
“I tried to get cute with a bunker shot and three-putted from there,” he said. “There’s times on this course where you take your medicine and try to just walk away with a par. And then there’s times I sort of got the balance right today, but I didn’t take my opportunities when I could have.”
After hitting just 10 fairways total his first two rounds, McIlroy found 11 of 14 in the third round. Unfortunately, he needed 33 putts, three more than in the second round. He recorded two three-putt greens to push his total to four for the tournament.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has posted three top-10 finishes the past three years at the Masters, is hopeful his major experience will help. He tees off at 1:45 p.m. Sunday with Matt Kuchar ahead of six other pairings.
“You can hear if someone’s made a birdie or eagle on a certain hole on the back nine,” McIlroy said. “The leaderboard changes and everyone reacts to that. So you really have to focus on yourself and not worry too much about what everyone else is doing. And just try to block all that out and just focus on what you’re doing.”