Friday 20 April 2018

'It doesn't make a difference to me' - Rory McIlroy unperturbed by grouping with Jordan Spieth

Rory McIlroy is right in contention after a steady round in difficult conditions (Getty Images)

Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy admits he must ignore his playing partner and the significance of what he is trying to achieve ahead of an eagerly-anticipated third round of the Masters.

McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will be in the final group at Augusta National on Saturday after McIlroy defied swirling winds to card a 71 and finish just a shot behind the defending champion, who struggled to a 74.

Victory on Sunday would make McIlroy just the sixth player to complete a career grand slam, while Spieth is looking to become only the fourth player to make a successful title defence in the year's first major.

"It doesn't make a difference to me who it is up there," said McIlroy, who has outscored Spieth eight times on the 12 occasions they have played together.

"I want to win this golf tournament and I want to finish on the lowest score possible, and whoever that is ahead of me at that point, I just want to finish one better than that.

"I'm really trying to block that (the grand slam) out. It's another golf tournament I'm trying to win.

"I'm trying to beat guys on this leaderboard that I've beaten before, so I need to take confidence from that and know that I've been in this position before. Maybe not on this golf course, but I've been in this position before in big tournaments and been able to get the job done.

"Look, I know it's a very big weekend for me. But when I'm out there on the golf course, I just have to be completely 100 per cent focused on the task at hand, and if I can do that and stay in the moment and be completely focused over every golf shot I hit from now until Sunday night, then hopefully everything will work out the way I want it to."

McIlroy had stressed the need for a good start earlier this week and was delighted to be in such a good position after a round he rated as one of his best at Augusta.

"It's up there," added the 26-year-old, who was eight behind Spieth after following two early birdies with a double bogey on the fourth and dropped shots on the fifth and 11th.

"I kept my composure and I played the shots when I needed to. It's only the second day, there's still two days to go, but it's a great round and it's nice to be up there near the lead going into the weekend here instead of on the cut line and having to battle back where I found myself the last couple years. I'm happy with where I'm at."

The world number three, who closed with rounds of 68 and 66 last year and has a scoring average of 68.5 on the weekend in 2014 and 2015, added: "If I can have a weekend like I did that last weekend, I'd be very happy.

"Obviously with the position I was in last year going into the weekend, there wasn't much pressure. You could go out there and free-wheel it a little bit and try to make as many birdies as you could and the conditions were more benign, so you could go after the course a bit more.

"But I've played this golf course well on the weekend the last couple years, and I have to take confidence from that. Hopefully it's a third year in a row and a third weekend in a row where I can post a couple of good scores and see where that leaves me at the end of the week."

Press Association

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