The Masters 2024: Rory McIlroy targets big finish as Grand Slam hopes fade at Augusta National | Golf News

Rory McIlroy is targeting a Sunday charge up the leaderboard and big finish to The Masters after noticing progress in his game during the third round at Augusta National.

McIlroy posted his lowest opening round at The Masters since 2018 with a one-under 71 on Thursday but saw his hopes of ending his major drought suffer a setback when he failed to register a birdie in a five-over 77 in his second round.

The Northern Irishman described his swing during the last few holes of Friday’s windy round as “horrific”, leading to a late-night range session in an attempt to seek an improvement, with McIlroy then seeing improvements in a third-round 71.

Rory McIlroy during his third round at the 2024 Masters
Rory McIlroy remains without a major victory since the 2014 PGA Championship

McIlroy mixed three birdies with two bogeys to head into Sunday on three over and with his Grand Slam hopes seemingly over for another year, but the 34-year-old hopes to take inspiration from his final round in 2022 – where he came from 10 back to finish runner-up – and deliver a positive end to the week.

“I’ll just go out there and give it a go,” McIlroy told Sky Sports. “A couple of years ago I went out there and shot a good score and got myself right up the leaderboard.

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Rory McIlroy claims he felt better about his game on Saturday at The Masters after shooting a one-under-par 71 at Augusta National but admits he’s disappointed with a lack of birdies.

“If the conditions stay the same, you pick up four, five or six shots, you’re going to get yourself way up the leaderboard. I’ll just try to do more of the same, hole a few more putts, and hopefully finish the week on a positive.”

Mixed bag for McIlroy on moving day

McIlroy missed a five-footer to save par at the first after an errant tee shot and wayward approach into the opening hole, before firing a 380-yard drive at the par-five next and getting up and down from the greenside bunker to make a bounce-back birdie.

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Rory McIlroy hit a 380-yard drive on the second hole at Augusta National during the third round of The Masters. He would go on to birdie the hole.

The Northern Irishman looked frustrated after going off the green with a wedge at the third and had to scramble a par at the fifth after another poor approach shot, then lost further ground with a three-putt bogey from the fringe at the par-three sixth.

McIlroy squandered a glorious birdie opportunity at the seventh but made amends at the par-five next despite finding sand off the tee and having to lay up, with the four-time major champion ending a run of pars by adding to his birdie tally at the par-four 14th.

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He has yet to birdie either of the par-fives on the back nine this week, with that continuing at the 15th, while McIlroy initially thought his par-save attempt at the last was heading wide of the target before unexpectedly finding the cup.

“Obviously conditions were a little easier than yesterday,” McIlroy added. “Still tricky, though. Hard to get the ball close, and then you sort of just have to take your chances from 20, 25 feet. But definitely hit the ball better today, gave myself a lot of looks. Missed a few, but shooting something under par was a decent effort.

Rory McIlroy on day three of The Masters
Rory McIlroy has posted 20 top-10s in majors since his 2014 PGA Championship victory

“It was hard to get any momentum yesterday just because of the conditions. I think I made three birdies today compared to zero yesterday, so nice to see some red numbers on the card. Yeah, it was a little better.

“I made good progress last week in San Antonio [Valero Teas Open], my strokes gained numbers and approach were good. I would say my strokes gained approach numbers today were probably pretty good. So it’s getting better. It’s definitely better than what it was through the Florida Swing.

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On his Grand Slam hopes fading over the opening three days, McIlroy said: “All I can do is come here and try my best. That’s what I do every time I show up. Some years it’s better than others. I’ve just got to keep showing up and try to do the right thing.”

Who will win The Masters? Watch Featured Groups live on Sunday from 3pm via the red button or log in to the Sky Sports app, with live build-up on Sky Sports Golf from 3pm ahead of full coverage from 6.30pm.

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