For Rory McIlroy, it looks like another year of no jacket acquired at Masters
Third round of 71 leaves pre-tournament favourite a long way adrift of leaders
Rory McIlroy stands on the fifth hole during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy collected another piece of crystal for an eagle on the 15th in his third round of the Masters but that growing collection of bowls would appear to be the only items he’ll be leaving the grounds of Augusta National with, as he carded a 71 for a 54-holes total of one-under-par.
A bit like the guest of honour who has been asked to stand in the corner, McIlroy’s hopes of adding the green jacket to his other Major titles faded despite a sub-par round. In fact, on a day of scorching scores in ideal conditions, the Northern Irishman’s effort actually saw him slip further down the leaderboard.
McIlroy struggled to get any momentum going, which has been a familiar theme of his effort to complete the career Grand Slam, and apart from eagle-birdie sequence at 15 and 16, there was little to cheer again in a third round which failed to garner sufficient forward projection.
“I just tried to play a good round of golf. It wasn’t about chasing, it wasn’t about doing anything, it was just about going out there and executing the shots that I needed to. And I felt for the most part today that I did maybe a little bit better than the previous two days. But I just haven’t been getting much out of my round.
“I’ve just been making too many mistakes. 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 rough this year is about a quarter or half an inch longer than it usually is, and it’s just hard to get control of your ball out of it. And I just haven’t driven it in the fairway enough to have control going into these greens.
As Patrick Cantlay leapfrogged upwards with a sizzling 64 for a six-under-par 54-hole total of 210, it was Webb Simpson who equalled that eight-under round to make an even bigger impression. Simpson’s run moved into in to the clubhouse lead, a 64 for 207, nine under par.
“There was enough humidity in the air, that the greens were softer. We are playing pretty safe, but softer greens allow you to go more at it,” said Simpson, who hit 14/14 fairways with a perfect driving display.
Tony Finau became the first player to move double-digits under par with a birdie on the 13th hole, which made him seven under on his round and moved him to 10 under for the tournament. It gave him a one-stroke lead over Simpson in the clubhouse and on Xander Schauffele, three under on his round through eight and on nine under for the tournament.