McIlroy laughs off defeat by non-competing player

Rory McIlroy laughed off the embarrassment of being outscored by his marker in the third round of the Masters at Augusta National on Saturday.

As the last of 51 players to make the halfway cut on the mark of four over par on Friday evening, McIlroy was in the first group out this morning, with club member Jeff Knox alongside as a non-competing marker.

And Knox, who performed the same role for defending champion Bubba Watson last year, proceeded to show the two-time major winner exactly how to play the course, carding a two-under-par 70 to McIlroy's 71.

McIlroy had to birdie three of the last four holes to keep it that close - in match play he would have lost 4&3 - and said: "Jeff is a great player. I thought he was going to be nice and three-putt the last and we would have a half, but he beat me by one.

"He obviously knows this place so well and gets it round. I don't think I've ever seen anyone putt the greens as well as he does around here. He was really impressive. I was thinking of maybe getting him to read a few of my putts out there.

"He played really well and he couldn't have been more helpful. He played just like he should be playing in the Masters."

McIlroy got off to a good start with a two-putt birdie on the second, but bogeys on the third and seventh meant an outward nine of 37 completed in 90 minutes, with Knox - who holds the course record of 61 from the members' tees - out in 35 after matching McIlroy's birdie on the second.

McIlroy dropped another shot on the 10th and could only smile wryly when he missed for birdie on the 12th, but then saw Knox casually hole from 30 feet.

The 24-year-old saved par on the 13th after driving into Rae's Creek, two-putted the 15th for birdie and finally holed a long putt for another on the 17th - which drew a fist bump from Knox - while a superb approach to four feet on the 18th ended the day on a high note.

"Obviously I wanted something a little better than that going out this morning, but with the way these greens are and the way the golf course is set up, it's hard to go really low on this golf course like I needed to try and get myself back in the tournament," McIlroy added.

"My best finish here is 15th, which isn't really anything to shout about, so it would be nice to play well tomorrow, shoot something in the mid to high 60s and maybe finish the week in red figures.

"I think a good goal would be to have my best finish ever at Augusta and go from there. It wouldn't be the week that I would have wanted from the start, but the way the last two days have went it wouldn't be a bad way to finish the week.

"I don't know what it is. I seem to throw in a high number every year. Last year it was a 79, this year it was a 77. At least it's getting a little better. It's just turning those 77s and the high ones into 72s or 73s, that's the real key for me around here."

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