McIlroy seeking inspiration as he looks to kick-start Masters challenge

The 29-year-old was one under par after the opening four holes of his third round

Rory McIlroy needed a low third round in the 83rd Masters
Rory McIlroy needed a low third round in the 83rd Masters (Chris Carlson/AP)

Rory McIlroy did it the hard way as he tried to kickstart his bid for the career grand slam on day three of the 83rd Masters.

McIlroy needs a victory at Augusta National to become only the sixth player to have won all four major titles, joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in golf’s most elite club.

The odds were against the 29-year-old as he started the third round seven shots off the lead following rounds of 73 and 71, odds which increased after he frustratingly played the first three holes in level par.

McIlroy got his round under way with a perfect drive and an approach to 25 feet, but left his birdie putt inches short and then strangely opted to hit a three wood off the tee on the par-five second.

That meant he needed the same club for his approach from more than 300 yards and still came up 30 yards short of the green, from where he failed to get up and down for birdie.

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A more aggressive approach looked set to pay dividends as McIlroy hit his drive to the edge of the green on the short third, but after a poor chip the four-time major winner lipped out for birdie.

McIlroy was also less than happy with his tee shot on the par-three fourth, but holed from 32 feet for an unlikely birdie to improve to one under par.

For the first time in tournament history there was a five-way tie for the lead after 36 holes as Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen all finished a sensational second day on seven under par.

All five players have won at least one major, but Scott is the only one to already own a green jacket, while Koepka is seeking a remarkable fourth major title from his last seven starts.

However, most eyes were likely to be on the 1405 local time (1905BST) pairing of Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter as Woods tries to remain on course for a fifth Masters title, his first since 2005 and a first victory in any major since the 2008 US Open.

Woods compiled a second round of 68 either side of a 30-minute delay due to a thunderstorm on Friday afternoon, the 43-year-old escaping unhurt after a bizarre incident on the 14th.

For the second day running, Woods pulled off a superb recovery shot from the trees on the par four, only for a security guard to run in to try to control the crowd, slip on the wet ground and slide knee-first into Woods’s right ankle.

Woods limped away grimacing in pain but there appeared to be no lasting damage and, after holing from 15 feet for birdie, the 14-time major winner also converted from twice the distance on the par-five 15th.

Further good chances went begging on the 17th and 18th but left Woods sharing sixth place with Dustin Johnson, Justin Harding and Xander Schauffele, with Poulter and Jon Rahm a shot further back.

“Accidents happen, we move on,” Woods said. “Other than having four knee surgeries and four back surgeries I’m great.

“It’s all good. I’ve had galleries run over me (before). When you play in front of a lot of people things happen.”