Rory McIlroy was today trying again to figure out the right plan of attack for Augusta National, albeit after starting the final round of the Masters far too early for his liking.
McIlroy was within three shots of the lead after six holes of his third round, but dropped shots at the seventh and ninth before slumping to a back nine of 42. The world number two took seven on both the 11th and 15th in a round of 79, just one shot better than the nightmare 80 he shot in 2011 after taking a four-shot lead into the final.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," the 23-year-old said of his approach to the course. "I feel like I played smart enough. I'm playing it the way I know you should play it. I'm not taking too much on, I'm not being too defensive. I feel like my strategy's right, it's just sometimes if your execution is just that little bit off you pay a big price for it."
Starting the day 12 shots behind joint leaders Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera, McIlroy birdied the par-five second, bogeyed the fourth and birdied the par-five eighth in an outward nine of 35.
A par on the 10th left him four over par and in a share for 39th place alongside American Michael Thompson, who was producing one of the best rounds of the day at three under through 13 holes.
McIlroy parred the 11th and birdied the 15th, meaning he had covered those two holes in eight shots fewer than yesterday, then almost holed his tee shot on the 16th to set up a tap-in birdie.
That lifted him to three under for the day and two over for the tournament, the same score which was now leading in the clubhouse after a 67 from American Michael Thompson. Sandy Lyle signed off with a 71 on the 25th anniversary of his Masters triumph to finish nine over, while playing partner Guan Tianlang shot 75 to end an eventful week on 12 over.
There was still two hours to go before Snedeker and Cabrera teed off in the final group, with Snedeker seeking his first major title and Cabrera a third to follow his Masters win in 2009 and 2007 US Open victory.
Australia's Adam Scott was a shot behind as he aimed to banish the memories of his collapse in the final round of the Open at Lytham last year. And with compatriots Marc Leishman and Jason Day a shot behind, the odds of an Australian winning the Masters for the first time looked good.
Tiger Woods was poised just four off the lead, however the 14-time major winner was controversially handed a two-shot penalty on Saturday morning after taking an incorrect drop on the 15th hole of his second round.