Rory McIlroy might think Tiger Woods’ escape from Masters disqualification was “questionable” but he believes he’s closer than ever to coming up with the right answers to his own Augusta inquisition.
The 23-year old world No 2 bounced back from the nightmare third round 79 that cost him his title chance this year with a closing 69 that gives him hope of one day pulling on the famous green jacket.
Four birdies — including a near hole-in-one at the 16th — and just one bogey gave the Holywood native a share of 25th as he posted a two over total in his fifth appearance at Augusta.
“If only I had had that yesterday it would have been nice,” said McIlroy, recalling the eight shots he dropped in a 10-hole stretch from the seventh.
“I didn’t feel like I played too differently today than I did yesterday, but yet the score is 10 shots lower. It’s just the way it is on this golf course.
“If you get on the wrong sides of the greens and wrong sides of the pins it can make you look silly at times.
“But obviously I went through a bad stretch of holes there yesterday from 7 to 11, played them in five‑over, but apart from that I actually felt like I had a decent tournament.”
McIlroy has broken par in nine of his 18 rounds at Augusta, shooting everything from an opening 65 to a closing 80 in 2011, the year of his meltdown.
“It’s just about trying to limit those mistakes,” he said. “I’m learning each and every year around here. And I still got plenty of more years to try and get one of those jackets.
“You just got to be so controlled and not take on too much and yesterday I didn’t feel like I did that much wrong, today I played a really nice controlled round of golf, shoot 69, and if you do that, every round you’re not going to be too far away.
“It’s one of these golf courses where, when it’s like this unfortunately like you can shoot 65 in a heart beat, but all of a sudden you go for a few shots and you’re staring double and triple bogey in the face.”
McIlroy’s day began with the newspapers still full of talk of Woods and Augusta National’s decision not to disqualify him for signing for a wrong score on Friday.
“It’s up to the rules committee,” McIlroy said when asked his opinion of “dropgate” and Woods. “I thought it was questionable to be honest but it’s not for me to say. He’s playing and he’s in contention. We’ll see what happens.”
McIlroy’s third round problems stemmed from his poor play off the tee but he was clinical yesterday and hardly put a foot wrong all day.
Having chipped and putted to save par at the first, he almost holed a curling 50 foot eagle putt at the second before dropping his only shot of the day at the par-three fourth, where he was in the deep bunker on the right.
Unlucky to spin back off the top tier at the par-three sixth, he still saved par there before playing the stretch he covered in eight over on Saturday in three under.
Despite missing a great chance from six feet at the seventh, he chipped dead to birdie the eighth, parred his way through Amen Corner before picking up birdies at the 15th and 16th.
His two at the 170-yard 16th was spectacular - a towering eighth iron that pitched right of the pin and rolled down the slope, finishing two inches behind the pin.
Leaving Augusta on a high, McIlroy said: “I’ve shot good enough scores around here, I just haven’t put them all together in four rounds. So when I’m able to do that, I hope that I’ll go close.
“It’s a frustrating golf course at times, but even today I hit some good shots into pins and instead of going 10 feet away I rolled off the green and stuff like that. It’s just the way Augusta is and I think you have to embrace it and accept that’s what it’s going to be like sometimes.
“It’s the same thing every year. Don’t short side yourself, don’t take on too much when you know you can’t.
“That’s the game plan that I came in with this week and it just didn’t pay off. Something like the 15th hole yesterday you hit the ball up 10 yards on the green all of a sudden it comes back into the water and you think you’ve played a good shot.
“It’s just the little just the little nuances of this golf course, it’s a tough one. But I’m learning each and every year and hopefully I’ll come back with a little more experience next year.”
Set to return to action in at Quail Hollow in three weeks’ time, McIlroy added: “I’ve got a good stretch of tournaments coming up, Charlotte and TPC then going back to Europe for Wentworth, followed by Memorial and US Open, so I’m looking forward to the tournaments coming up.”