Rory McIlroy recovers well at Masters despite another blunder on 13th

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits on the fourth hole during the third round of the Masters golf tournament Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (David J. Phillip/AP)

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Stuck in the bushes. Behind a tree. Caught in the branches.

Rory McIlroy saw every part of the 13th hole at Augusta National this week -- except for the middle of the fairway. On Saturday, he turned a 9-foot birdie chance into a three-putt bogey and cost himself any chance at a Masters victory that would complete his career Grand Slam.

"I have zero thoughts about winning this golf tournament right now," he said after shooting 67 to finish the day at 8 under par, eight strokes behind leader Dustin Johnson. ``I think I've left myself too far back after the bad first day. But I'll go and give it a good effort tomorrow and see where that leaves me.''

Following an opening-round 75 with a 66 on Friday, McIlroy was on his way back to contention after chipping in from the greenside bunker on No. 12 for his fifth birdie in a bogey-free round. But the 13th, where he took a drop on Thursday and got blocked by a tree trunk on Friday, stymied him again in the third round.

The 31-year-old from Northern Ireland caught some branches with his drive; he laid up with his second shot to avoid the tributary of Rae's Creek that fronts the green, then chipped to within 9 feet of the hole. But he slid the birdie putt 4 feet past the hole, then lipped out on the comebacker for his second bogey on No. 13 in three rounds.

Instead of improving to 6 under, he was back to 4 under. He made birdie on No. 16.

"Eleven under for the last two days, I think that sort of speaks for itself," he said. "The good golf was in there, I just didn't allow myself to play that way on the first 18 holes. This course can do that. This course can make you a little bit careful and a little bit tentative at times."

On Thursday, McIlroy was even at the turn and 1 over when he arrived at No. 13, where he flew his drive into the heavy brush to the left of the fairway; he took a drop, punched out, landed an approach 18 feet from the pin and two-putted.

That started a string of three bogeys in four holes.

"I try to view everything as a learning experience," McIlroy said. "But, yeah, I'll look back at that and rue some of the shots that I hit and some of the thought processes I had and just try to learn from it and be better the next time."

McIlroy won the U.S. Open in 2011, the British Open in 2014 and the PGA Championship twice, in 2012 and '14. His best finish at Augusta was fourth in 2015, when he was fourth, six strokes behind winner Jordan Spieth.

Playing with 1985 and '93 Masters champion Bernhard Langer on Saturday, McIlroy had an up-close view of what it would mean to win at Augusta.

"It's some of the coolest traditions in our game. Of course you want to be part of that for the rest of your life if you can," he said. "Look, winning the Masters would be cool, winning the Grand Slam would be cool and there's a lot of great things that come along with that.

"But at the end of the day you have to simplify it as much as you can. It's just a golf tournament, and you're playing against guys you see every week. It shouldn't be that different."

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