Monday 21 January 2019

McIlroy makes good progress at Augusta

Rory closes on Masters pacesetter.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

By Phil Casey, Press Association Sport Golf Correspondent, Augusta

Rory McIlroy made a sensational start to the third round of the Masters as he stepped up his bid to complete the career grand slam at Augusta National.

McIlroy began the day five shots off the lead held by Ryder Cup rival Patrick Reed, but birdied the third and fourth and then almost holed his tee shot on the par-three sixth.

And the best was yet to come as the former world number one chipped in for an eagle on the par-five eighth to join Reed in the lead on nine under par.

McIlroy had enjoyed a lucky bounce on the first when his pulled drive hit a tree and bounced down into the first cut of rough, from where he missed the green and had to get up and down for par.

Another wayward drive on the second meant McIlroy failed to take advantage of the reachable par five, but the 28-year-old’s much-maligned putting came to the rescue when he holed treacherous putts from 20 feet on both the third and fourth.

McIlroy could even have birdied the fifth in remarkable fashion after his second shot hit the lip of a fairway bunker but somehow had enough top spin to reach the green, although he was unable to convert from 12 feet.

A stunning tee shot on the sixth left the Northern Irishman with a tap-in for birdie and the putter was not even needed on the eighth as his chip from right of the green – which was travelling at some speed – hit the pin and dropped in for an eagle.

Rickie Fowler was a shot behind McIlroy thanks to an eagle on the second and birdies on the fifth, sixth and eighth.

Spain’s Jon Rahm was a shot further back after three birdies and an eagle on the eighth, with Henrik Stenson and Marc Leishman also six under.

European number one Tommy Fleetwood had played his first 14 holes in five under par and was joined on that score by the world’s top two ranked players, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.

At the other end of the leaderboard, Phil Mickelson was seven over par after a 74 which included an air-shot on the opening hole and an eagle on the eighth, where he hit a driver off the deck to eight feet.

And 14-time major winner Tiger Woods had to settle for avoiding a third consecutive over par round at Augusta for the first time in his career after a battling 72.

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