Published: Thu, April 20, 2017
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

Masters traffic jam: Contenders galore at Augusta National

Masters traffic jam: Contenders galore at Augusta National

World number two McIlroy had begun the day at one over par, five shots off the pace being set by halfway co-leaders Charley Hoffman, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler, promising an attacking approach to his play as he attempted to get among the contenders going into the Sunday's final round. The lead pairing will tee off at 7:45pm Irish time on Sunday with Garcia bidding to finally win a major in his 74th start, and on the day his compatriot and hero, the late Seve Ballesteros would have celebrated his 60th birthday. "It was two bad breaks because the wind then caught me out on the putt as well and made it go uphill".

"The margins are so fine around this golf course and I was just on the wrong side of it".

"I can, yeah, but I need to play the round of my life tomorrow", said McIlroy.

"We're very excited. It's a great time in our lives and it's all about that over the next couple of weeks and I'll come back at the Players Championship refreshed and a married man and start a new chapter in my life".

After hitting just 10 fairways total his first two rounds, McIlroy found 11 of 14 in the third round. Yet he is wary of being overly aggressive in the final round. He bogeyed the par-three fourth, exposing again his Achilles' heel of 2016 and though he completed a sweep of birdies on the four par fives, without dropping further shots to move to three under, McIlroy's ambitions were put on hold for at least another 12 months. "You still need to play smart when you have to".

"I feel I'm swinging it as good as I have been for a long time, I've done a lot of good work with Michael (Bannon, his coach) over the last couple of weeks, my putting feels as good as it has done in a long time". So you really have to focus on yourself and not worry too much about what everyone else is doing. It's the most important thing.

"Even if you're not playing that well, if your head is in the right place you'll always have a chance. especially around this place".

The Northern Irishman just needs to win the Masters to complete the career Grand Slam following major victories at the 2011 US Open, 2012 and 2014 US PGA, and 2014 Open.

There was trouble ahead though, a bogey at the par-four fifth and double bogey seven at the seventh to undo his strong opening, althugh he reclaimed a short with a birdie at the eighth.

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