Friday, November 28, 2014




Rory McIlroy's hopes of retaining the Australian Open championship look to have sunk without trace after a woeful third round left him well adrift of the leading pack at the Sydney venue. 
A pair of openings 69s had left the world number one firmly in contention to defend the crown he won in thrilling style last year, but he has been some way short of his best in Sydney this week.
That was evident on Saturday as a five-over-par 76 left him on one-over-par 214 overall, six shots adrift of leading trio Brett Rumford, Jordan Spieth and Greg Chalmers.
Despite being level par after eight holes - when he was joint leader - with a bogey at the fourth immediately followed up by a birdie at the next, McIlroy's round fell apart just before the turn.
He found the rough on the ninth and struggled to dig his way out en route to a triple bogey 7 and he then made a double bogey 6  at the 10th to tumble down the leaderboard.
McIlroy birdied the next but another pair of bogeys, at the 13th and 16th, dropped him further back.
A birdie at the last meant the Northern Irishman at least ended on a positive note going into the final round, but the damage had long since been done.
McIlroy won the title at the Australian Golf Club 12 months ago on the 72nd hole, where he pipped world number three Adam Scott, who is currently one shot off the lead after a third-round 69.
Although McIlroy was not ready to concede, he admitted he had given himself a mountain to climb.
"It was a tough day obviously," he said on the tournament's website. "The wind was up. I was doing okay, steady enough, until I got to the ninth. I hit a wayward tee-shot into what I thought was a decent enough lie that I could advance the ball.
"But I didn't realise what I was standing on is not like dirt or earth. It was more like carpet. So the ball went underneath the carpet. Had it been a normal surface it would have been alright, but down there it was impossible."
Even if retaining his title proves out of reach, McIlroy is keen to put on a show on Sunday in his final round of the year.
"I need a fast start tomorrow to have a chance," he said. "It depends too on what the guys ahead of me do. I need some help. But the greens have been firmer every day. So a low score is higher than it was.
"I still feel like I can shoot a good one. I just don't know if that will be enough. I'll be trying my best. It's the last round of the season so it would be nice to make it a good one."
A tricky windy coupled with hard, bouncy greens and difficult pin placements, left only six players under par after 54 holes.American Spieth shot a two-under-par 69 and shares a one-stroke lead on five-under 139 with home hopes Chalmers (71) and Rumford (69)
Adam Scott is tied fourth with fellow Australian Rod Pampling after both shot 69s.
"The course is on a razor's edge as they are trying to create a golf course that's as unplayable as they can get it without it being so and it's right on that point," said Rumford in the Media Centre.
"It's tough, I'm certainly not saying it's easy. You seem as though you are pedalling a million miles an hour going no where."
Spieth described conditions as "brutal" and was pleased with his mix of five birdies and three bogeys, one of which came at the ninth hole when his approach shot hit the pin and bounced back off the green.
"The wind was flipping, it was tough to get the right yardage let alone the accuracy," he said.
"I felt like I really hung in there nicely. To grab five bogeys on a day like today, if I can do that tomorrow I think I will be in good shape."
Scott snared his third birdie of the day when he holed a 25ft putt at the 17th but would have gone even lower had his putter otherwise been working as well as his irons.
"It's a tough day out there but I think I struck the ball very well, solid, so I didn't feel like I was grinding," Scott said.
"A shame to miss a couple of short ones but made up for it on 17 with a long one."
Pampling fired the shot of the day with an iron from 150yd for an eagle at the 10th and could have had a share of the lead had he not missed a three-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

Par 213 (3x71) Players from Australia unless stated
208 Brett Rumford 70 69 69, Jordan Spieth (USA) 67 72 69, Greg Chalmers 71 66 71
209 Adam Scott 74 66 69, Rod Pampling 73 67 69
211 Todd Sinnott (am) 71 67 73

214 Boo Weekley (USA) 72 71 71, Rory McIlroy (N Ireland) 69 69 76 (T14).





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