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McIlroy left with mountain to climb after stuttering Saturday at Augusta

The four-time major winner saved his round on the back nine, including an eagle, but sits some distance back from the leaders.

Rory McIlroy has only a slim hope of completing a career Grand Slam tomorrow at Augusta.
Rory McIlroy has only a slim hope of completing a career Grand Slam tomorrow at Augusta.
Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez

DESPITE HIS BEST efforts, Rory McIlroy will know he has a mountain to climb ahead of the final day of The Masters after his stuttering Saturday performance at Augusta.

His third round of 71 leaves him -1 for the tournament and some distance back from the leaders at the first major or the year.

Having started his day on level par and six shots off the leaders, the four-time major winner parred his opening three holes before picking up his first shot of the afternoon.

On the par-three 4th, McIlroy drove his tee shot to the right of the hole, leaving him with a massive 32-foot to bring him into the red.

He would go to miss his drive to the green on the 6th, signalling the start of a disappointing run which scuppered his work on day three at Augusta National.

He successfully managed to chip onto the green but two-putted from close range to give his scorecard the first blemish of the afternoon.

On the 7th, an errant drive was followed by an approach shot  which found the bunker. He chipped to within 13 feet, but again his putting wasn’t up to scratch and left him with a two-foot tap-in bogey.

Masters Golf A flurry on the back nine gives McIlroy very slim hopes after a difficult start to his round. Source: Marcio Jose Sanchez

A par on the 8th appeared to stop the rot before McIlroy brought himself to +2 with another dropped shot before the turn.

He then went birdie-bogey on the 10th and 11th hole, leaving him +2 with nine holes to play. A career Grand Slam appeared to be fading.

Revival

All, however, was not lost. A birdie on the par-five 13th reignited his challenge heading down the stretch.

A magnificent recovery shot from the trees set him up to hit an approach shot to 13 feet, leaving him with an excellent putt for birdie.

Moving in the right direction, the 30-year-old then bombed a 303-yard drive down the centre of the fairway on the 15th.

His approach, an inch-perfect 225-yard drive to nine feet, gave him his first eagle opportunity of the day and he duly obliged.

He followed that with an birdie on the 16th to bring his round back to -2.

But on his final hole to close out his round, McIlroy found two bunkers, leaving himself with considerable work to make par.

His 13-foot putt came up  just short as he finished off his round of 71 on a frustrating note.

The field

No sooner had the final group of Francesco Molinari and Jason Day teed off than they were two shots back as Tony Finau, who started the day four off the pace, eagled the par-five 8th to move to -9 for the tournament.

Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, opened with a birdie to move to -8, where he was joined by South African Justin Harding and American Xander Schauffele — who both started the day -6.

That’s where Woods began the day and that’s where he remained after four straight pars.

Woods, who won the most recent of his four Masters titles back in 2005 and his last major at the 2008 US Open, thrilled the galleries with his push toward the top on Friday, with four birdies in his last 10 holes.

But he was going to have to pick up the pace.

American Patrick Cantlay showed just what was possible. After starting the day +2 he was in the clubhouse on -6, 210 after a bogey-free eight-under par 64.

You can keep up to date with all of the latest scores right here.

With reporting from AFP.

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