McIlroy says Masters hopes still alive

 Rory McIlroy (AFP)
Rory McIlroy (AFP)

Augusta - Rory McIlroy said Saturday that his hopes of finally winning the Masters were still alive thanks to playing partner Jordan Spieth's stumbles over the last two holes of the third round.

Standing on the 17th tee, the Northern Irishman, who needs a win at Augusta National to become just the sixth player to win all four major titles, was eight shots adrift of his playing partner, having started the day just one behind him.

But out of character, the American defending champion got sloppy to bogey 17 and double bogey the last.

The gap was down to five, a difficult but not impossible deficit to make up on Sunday, McIlroy having seen his own four-shot lead over the field vanish in double-quick time in the final round of 2011.

"Just one of those days. You have to try to forget about it and move on," he said after his round of 77, the same as he shot in the second round last year.

"To be honest with you, I would be feeling a lot worse about myself if I hadn't have just seen what Jordan did the last two holes.

"I sort of take a bit of heart from that, that I'm still in this golf tournament.

"But I just need to go out there tomorrow and be aggressive. I've got nothing to lose. Today was my bad day and hopefully I can go out there and make up for the lack of birdies today and make double the amount tomorrow."

McIlroy started well enough despite a dropped shot at the short par-3 third, but he got a bad break at the tough seventh hole, which had been playing as the toughest on the course.

"I think the big turning point for me in the round was the seventh," he said.

"I hit two great shots in there, just above the pin, thought I holed my putt for birdie, it goes six feet by and I miss the one coming back.

"Jordan was making bogey there anyway and to not at least pick up a shot there, it sort of killed all momentum that I maybe would have gotten.

"Then to hit it in the bunker on eight from there, I was just making life very difficult for myself."

McIlroy said that he had once again been impressed with the resolve and control displayed by Spieth with his most impressive asset being his clutch putting.

"You got to take your hat off to him, because he is such a grinder and such a battler and he always sticks in there," he said.

"And he's sitting on top of the leaderboard where he has been for basically the last three years here, so he's going out there tomorrow and it's his to lose.

"There's a few guys that have a chance and I feel like if I can get off to a good start, you never know."

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