Rory McIlroy hopes to put himself in the mix in the final round of the Valero Texas Open and head to the Masters with his confidence on the rise.
The world No 2 shot a one under 71 in the third round to trail leader Billy Horschel by four shots on six under par.
The good news is that there only three players ahead of him after Horschel hit a 70 on a breezy day in San Antonio to lead by two from Jim Furyk and Charley Hoffman.
Tied for fourth with Ryan Palmer and Bob Estes and with Padraig Harrington (70) a shot further back on fiv under in a five-way tie for seventh, McIlroy said: “Today could have been a couple of shots better, but I’m still in a decent position going into the last day and hopefully I can make a run of it.
“It was a tough scoring day. It was hard to really go low under par. I got off to a nice start birdieing the 1st and birdieing the 3rd. For the most part it was just about trying to play really smart and hit good fairways, ifyou could, and hit greens and give yourself as many chances as you possibly can.
“But it was tough. I probably should have been a couple better, but at the end of the day, it’s still a solid round, and I still have a chance coming into tomorrow.”
McIlroy was two under through three holes and bounced back from bogeys on the fourth and 11th with birdies at the 12th and 14th.
“I felt yesterday was really good,” said of his bid to rule out silly mistakes this week. “Today was not quite as good, but obviously the wind made it tough to score. But I feel like there’s a low one in me for sure.
“I had a couple of three‑putts on the back nine, and those you try to avoid as much as you can. But apart from that, it was okay. It was more a case of not taking my opportunities. I put myself in two good positions, especially on the last two holes, and I didn’t really take advantage of them.
“It could have been a couple of shots better, but I’m still in a decent position going into tomorrow.”
McIlroy insisted that adding San Antonio to his scheule at the 11th hour had been a positive move in terms of gaining confidence.
“Just to get more competitive, that is the main thing. Going into tomorrow, somewhere around the lead a few shots back, it’s a nice position to be in, and it would be great to get off to a fast start tomorrow and get in the mix and sort of have that feeling again and have that feeling going into Augusta.
“Billy is obviously playing so well out there. Yeah, it all depends. I don’t think you ever expect to win. You go out there and you try your best. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, you try to finish as high up as you can.”
Harrington closed with a sloppy bogey six at the last but still looks to be close to getting his game firing on all cylinders as he ended the day tied with Martin Laird, Jeff Overton, KJ Choi and Daniel Summerhays.
Shane Lowry is tied for 17th on two under after a 71 that saw him bogey the first and double bogye the fourth.
He bounced back with birdies at the fifth, sixth and eighth but then bogeyed the 10th and 11th before getting those shots back at the 12th and 17th.