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McIlroy continues to struggle


Birdie chances went begging for Rory McIlroy in the early stages of his third round (AP)

Birdie chances went begging for Rory McIlroy in the early stages of his third round (AP)

Birdie chances went begging for Rory McIlroy in the early stages of his third round (AP)

Rory McIlroy failed to find the "something phenomenal" he needed on Saturday to keep his faint hopes of winning the Masters alive at Augusta National.

But he was at least getting a valuable lesson in how to play the course from club member Jeff Knox, who was acting as McIlroy's marker and outscoring the former world number one.

McIlroy, who holed a four-foot par putt on the 18th on Friday evening to make the cut on the mark of four over par, started promisingly with a two-putt birdie from 25 feet on the par-five second.

However, the two-time major winner's approach to the short third ran over the green and he was unable to get up and down for par, while birdie chances went begging on the fourth and sixth.

An errant tee shot led to another bogey on the seventh and an outward nine of 37 completed in 90 minutes, with Knox - who holds the course record of 61 from the members' tees - out in an unofficial 35 after matching McIlroy's birdie on the second.

McIlroy dropped another shot on the 10th after missing the green left for the second day running, and smiled wryly when he missed for birdie on the 12th only to see Knox casually hole from 30 feet.

A visibly frustrated McIlroy drove into Rae's Creek on the left of the 13th and although he saved par after a penalty drop, another birdie putt catching the edge of the hole on the 14th and staying out summed up his day.

Speaking on Friday evening, McIlroy had said: "I just want to go out there and try to get off to a fast start. Eleven shots back (of leader Bubba Watson) with two rounds to play is going to be nearly impossible to make up, so I'm trying to shoot two really low rounds and see where that puts me at the end of the week.

"It will take something phenomenal to shoot something in the mid-60s and get myself back under par going into the last day. But I'm going to need to be two, three or four under par going into the last day to have any sort of chance."

Former champion Watson was seven under par at halfway and enjoyed a three-shot lead over Australian John Senden, with defending champion Adam Scott, Masters rookies Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn a shot further back.

American Gary Woodland was making the biggest move of the early starters, birdies on the first, sixth, eighth and ninth coupled with an eagle on the second taking him to the turn in just 30 shots, equalling the lowest front nine in Masters history previously achieved by Johnny Miller, KJ Choi, Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson.

At three under par overall Woodland, who only made the cut by a shot, was up to joint third and in with a chance of matching the course record of 63 - held by Norman and Nick Price - or even the first sub-63 round in major championship history.