Augusta, Georgia: Rory McIlroy saw his hopes for a Masters green jacket nosedive for a fifth straight year at Augusta National on Saturday and he admitted he was unsure what to do next.
The Ulsterman, who will turn 24 next month, came into the tournament hoping he had turned the corner on what has been a poor season so far and he was nicely poised on Saturday morning to mount a serious challenge.
But once again the mistakes slipped into his game and he went into the water at the 11th and 15th holes for a triple bogey and a double bogey, culminating in a round of 79 that effectively killed off his hopes.
"It's disappointing, especially after such a good start," said the world number two.
"I was only a few off the lead going into seventh hole today and then all of a sudden I play seven through 11 in five-over par and basically my chances in the tournament are gone.
"So it's very disappointing, I feel like I was playing well and feel like I have been playing well coming in here and it's just a frustrating day."
McIlroy, who blew a four-shot lead in the final round of the 2011 Masters, said before the tournament started that he had now learned how to chart his way around the 7,435 Georgia layout and stay patient.
But that failed to help him on Saturday.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," he said.
"I feel like I played smart enough. I hit three wood off the first, five wood off the second. 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."
McIlroy's woes were symptomatic of European weaknesses in the third round that saw expected challenges from the likes of Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia fail to materialize.
By the end of the day, two-time former Masters champion Bernhard Langer, at 55, headed the European challenge for a first win since 1999, the German in a five-way tie for ninth place, five shots off the lead.
Westwood was also on that mark and he was left bemoaning his poor play on the four par-fives, where most of the birdies are to be had at Augusta National.
Rose, the world number three and many people's pick to win this week, got to four under after three holes but played poorly from there on in and his 75 left him at level par and needing a near-miracle to win on Sunday.
Donald is even more remote at two over after a 75 that left him feeling that he deserved better.
"Very frustrating round," he said. "I felt like I played a lot better than three-over par today.
"The course was definitely playing tougher. The greens were firmer and quite a bit faster.
"There was a lot of shots out there that I was staring down and they came up a foot short and ended up walking off with a bogey instead of having a chance for birdie, and it was kind of one of those days where a lot of near misses."
Garcia, who was joint leader after the first round, had a 73 to get to one under, and he pointed to the performance of Langer as the best example of how to play the course.
"Amazing. I mean, he's just a fighter," the Spaniard said.
"I've played with him here a good amount of times now and it was impressive. He plays solid and he doesn't waste any shots out there. He manages to get everything around the best way possible and it was very impressive."
Story first published on: Sunday, 14 April 2013 08:08 IST