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April 10 2011

1:00 AM

Sunday preview: Can Rory hang on?

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Rory McIlroy has been picture-perfect through three rounds at Augusta National.

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

AUGUSTA, GA – Get ready for Masters Sunday at Augusta Inter-National, where a a mop-headed Irish lad holds a four-shot lead on a field.

You think Rory McIlroy will get some text messages/phone calls/tweets Saturday night? Reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, who missed the cut, followed him Saturday afternoon and sent him a text saying he loved him. (Rory said he wasn't sure if that was the beer talking or G-Mac.)

McIlroy’s sure to hear from others, such as Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer and maybe Louis Oosthuizen. Even Lee Westwood, who is nine shots back might offer some support.

Rounds of  65-69-70 have the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland heading out for a final 18 holes with 2009 champ Angel Cabrera. K.J. Choi, Charl Schwartzel and Jason Day are tied with Cabrera four back.

Adam Scott, who's making yet another comeback, is another shot back  and tied with Luke Donald, who is trying to break the dreaded Par-3 curse.

Jason Day had a chance to  slide into the final group and play with McIlroy for a fourth consecutive day, but he missed his birdie at the 18th.

Tiger Woods had a chance to settle in five back of the lead, but bogeyed the final hole to start Sunday seven back.

Sunday's forecast calls for another steamy day. Humid. 90s. Survival mode. Bombers haven. Who'll stay cool and who'll wilt under pressure? We don't pretend to know.

But we can tell you the following:

  •   Nine of the top 13 players on the board, including McIlroy, have never won a major.
  •   Not saying he will, but if McIlroy fades, there are 23 players within five shots of what is currently second place.
  •   The four major champs chasing McIlroy have a combined 18 majors.
  •   The largest comeback in the final round? Jack Burke Jr., came from eight down after 58 holes and nine back during the final round to win in 1956. Gary Player came from eight back in 1978. Nick Faldo blew past Greg Norman and his six-shot lead in 1996.
  •   A Tiger miracle would give him major No. 15 as he chases Jack Nicklaus' record of 18.
  •   A Cabrera win would give the lumbering Argentinian his second Green Jacket and third major.
  •   Geoff Ogilvy could win major No. 2. Ditto for 51-year-old Fred Couples, who's tied with Ogilvy and Woods.
  •   A win by an international player would mean international players would hold all four major titles.
  •   A win by Scott, Day or Ogilvy would be the first by an Australian.
  •   A win by McIlroy? That would give Ireland/Northern Ireland five of the last 11 major titles.

Lots of faces. Lots of plots. Will the kid hang on and win? Will one of the other kids win? Will Donald snap the Par-3 jinx? Will Tiger . . .

Stay tuned.

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