McIlroy feels game is returning at Redstone

Northern Irishman says third round of 71 not a fair reflection of his third round at the Houston Open

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his tee shot on the third hole during the third round of the Shell Houston Open at the Redstone Golf Club  in Humble, Texas. Photograph: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his tee shot on the third hole during the third round of the Shell Houston Open at the Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas. Photograph: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Sun, Mar 31, 2013, 12:57

Rory McIlroy did not dwell too long on the sloppy finish to his third round of the Houston Open at Redstone and instead expressed his satisfaction that the round of 71 indicated his game was finally turning around in time for The Masters.

The Northern Irishman feels he needs rounds more than anything right now and Friday's close call with the cut line afforded him two more this weekend. It looked like he was about to kick on impressively from that yesterday, when he was four under through 12 holes but three dropped shots on the way in took the shine off a round that ultimately left him back where he started, nine shots off the lead.

However, he preferred to look at the positives afterwards and put the negatives down to rustiness.

"It was good," to told the media conference after signing his card in Texas. "I hit the ball really well. It's the best I've hit it on the golf course this week. So, I mean, I take a lot of positives from it. Obviously the finish wasn't what I wanted. Just some silly mistakes from rustiness, I guess. I think with a little more competitive play, I'll eradicate that and - I'm happy. I hit it well."

The world number two, who needed to win this week to reclaim top spot from Tiger Woods, clearly did not feel the 71 for a two under overall score was a fair reflection of how he played.

"I was four under through 12," he said. "I had a five-foot putt to go five under through 13 and three-putted there. Didn't have the best of finishes, but I saw a lot of positives out there, I hit the ball really well, the best I've hit it on the course this week and that made me really happy with my game."

As he has been saying all week, trusting his shots on the course is the key and that, he feels, is improving all the time."It's all well and good hitting it well on the range, but you got to go out and do it on the course, and I feel like I'm finally beginning to do that."

On Friday, McIlroy made the decision, at the behest of caddie JP Fitzgerald, to enter next week's Texas Open at the last minute. With The Masters just a fortnight away, he feels the extra course-time is what he needs.

"I think with a bit more competitive play, one round here to go this week and hopefully four more rounds next week, I'll be ready. I'm very, very happy with the signs that I've seen."

Bill Haas and 2009 British Open winner Stewart Cink lead the way on 11 under and will tee off in the final group today, but 18 players are within four shots of the Americans.

Haas carded a five-under 67 and Cink entered the clubhouse after a 68, leaving the two at 11-under par for the tournament, one clear of countrymen Ben Crane (67), DA Points (71), Jason Kokrak (71) and overnight leader Steve Wheatcroft (72).

Nine other players are within two of the lead including major champions Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa (65), Argentine Angel Cabrera (69) and American Keegan Bradley (67) plus former world number one Englishman Lee Westwood (67).

Americans Bud Cauley (65), Billy Horschel (67), Kevin Chappell (67) and Cameron Tringale (69) plus Swede Henrik Stenson (68) also are at nine-under.

A 67 moved Phil Mickelson to six-under for the week, just five shots off the pace.