McIlroy stumbled to a 79 Saturday, which included a 42 over his final nine holes. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The circumstances were different, but the result was nearly identical for Rory McIlroy.
Two years ago, McIlroy led by four going into the final round at Augusta National and shot 80. Saturday, he trailed by four but looked every bit as lost on his way to a 79 that included two 7s on his scorecard.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," said McIlroy, searching for an answer to the riddle that Augusta National has at times been for the 23-year-old. "I feel like I played smart enough. I mean, I'm playing it the way I know the way 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."
That price included two bogeys and a triple bogey over a five-hole stretch in the middle of McIlroy's round after he'd briefly moved to within three strokes of the lead early on Saturday.
The latter of those came on the par-4 11th, where, from the middle of the fairway, McIlroy inexplicably tugged his approach shot left and into the tiny pond short of the green.
Things went from bad to worse on the par-5 15th when McIlroy's second shot found the front of the green only to spin back into the water. After he hitting from the drop area, McIlroy three-putted.
"The margins are very small on this course and when you get on the wrong side of some of these slopes, you can't help but get a penalty," said McIlroy, who closed in 42. "I felt like I was done in on 11 and 15, but that's the way it goes."
Just the way it did two years ago when McIlroy pulled his tee shot so far left on the 10th hole, it landed between Peak and Berckman cabins.
Of course it didn't start out so bad for McIlroy. He birdied the third hole to get to 3 under and sneaked onto the first page of the leaderboard.
But much like the rest of his season, Saturday's round was wildly inconsistent with four bogeys, a double, a triple, one birdie and a dozen pars.
For the week, he has more bogeys -- 11 -- than birdies -- 9 -- and has just 59 percent of his fairways and taken 87 putts.
"It's disappointing, especially after such a good start," said McIlroy, who arrived at Augusta National off a runner-up in San Antonio. "I was only a few off the lead going into the seventh hole today and then all of a sudden I play through seven through 11 in 5‑over par and basically my chances in the tournament are gone."