AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rory McIlroy was laughing and bouncing and swaggering all the way around Augusta National.
Taking advantage of several fortuitous bounces, McIlroy shot a 7-under 65 Saturday to match his lowest score ever at the Masters , pushing him within three shots of the lead and into the final group with Patrick Reed.
. He saved par at the 13th after knocking his ball into a thick patch of pink azaleas. He watched an errant tee shot at the final hole ricochet back into the fairway, setting up a birdie that could have easily been a bogey.
“I rode my luck a little bit out there today,” McIlroy conceded. “Hopefully I don’t have to rely on it too much tomorrow.”
This is the fourth straight year that he’s arrived at Augusta National looking to complete the career Grand Slam — a feat accomplished by only five of the game’s greatest players.
The last three times, he was simply too far back to make a serious run at the green jacket on Sunday.
This time, it’s right within his grasp, though he’ll have to chase down a scorching-hot player who’s turned in three straight rounds in the 60s.
“I feel like all the pressure is on him,” the 28-year-old McIlroy said of Reed, who’s never won a major title. “He’s got that to deal with and sleep on tonight. I feel like I can go out there and play like I’ve got nothing to lose.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time McIlroy has put himself in position to win the Masters. Back in 2011, before he had any major titles on his resume, he led after each of the first three rounds, went to the final day with a four-stroke lead and was still ahead as he made the turn. He totally fell apart after that, playing the last nine holes at 7 over to finish with an 80.