One round now separates Rory McIlroy from one of golf’s most elite constituencies. If on Sunday he can reel in Patrick Reed, the Masters’ 54-hole leader, McIlroy will become the sixth man.
With his 54-hole total of 11-under 205, McIlroy finished the day three strokes behind Reed, who posted his third consecutive sub-70 round, a 67, on the soggy Augusta National course.
“I’m just going to do my thing and stick to my game plan and go out and enjoy my Sunday,” Reed said of his final-round pairing with McIlroy. “I’m not out there to play Rory. I’m out there to play the golf course.”
Reed, 27, has never won a major, although he finished in a tie for second at the PGA Championship last year. On Sunday, he will aim to become the first player at the Masters ever to shoot four rounds below 70 — and also to make McIlroy wait at least another year to claim his first green jacket.
In his three previous visits to the Masters, McIlroy, 28, arrived with the career grand slam in his sights, and each time the anticipation led to slow starts and anticlimactic top-10 finishes.
This time, though, may be different. After opening with scores of 69 and 71, McIlroy produced a highlight reel of a round on Saturday to keep the pressure on the 27-year-old Reed.
McIlroy made a birdie at the par-3 sixth after he nearly holed his tee shot, chipped in for an eagle at the par-5 eighth and salvaged an improbable par from an azalea bush at the 13th. He finished with a birdie at 18, with a 17-foot putt, but only after his drive caromed off a tree and into the fairway.
In the first three rounds, McIlroy played the par-5s in 8-under par. He has had to keep firing at the pins whenever possible to keep pace with Reed, who played the par-5s in 5-under on Saturday — with a birdie at No. 8, an eagle at No. 13 and then a chip-in eagle at No. 15. Reed is 13-under on the par 5s for the week.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.