AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rory McIlroy was eight strokes better on his opening nine Saturday than he was on Friday, recorded his first round in the 60s this week, and cracked the top 10 on the leaderboard. Yet he still sounded like a man playing for second place at the Masters.
“I'm going to need something basically around 61, 62 [on Sunday] to have a real chance. I'm not sure that's going to happen but we'll see,” McIlroy said following a third-round 68 that moved him to 6 under but still well off the pace set by Jordan Spieth.
Saturday’s round was more of what we’ve come to expect from the world No. 1, highlighted by an eagle at the par-5 second hole. The low light would be two bogeys over his last three holes for an even-par back nine.
Still, McIlroy said his round is more of what he expects from himself at Augusta National, where he has recorded a nine-hole run in the 40s each of the last five years, including an opening loop of 40 on Friday.
With a victory this week McIlroy would secure the career Grand Slam, a unique pressure some thought might be weighing on him, but on Saturday the Northern Irishman dismissed that idea.
“I wasn't approaching it like I was trying to win the Grand Slam,” he said. “I was approaching it like I was trying to win another golf tournament. So I don't think it's really had any impact on the way I've played this week.”