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Rory McIlroy Photo by: Google Images

Rory McIlroy laughs off defeat to millionaire businessman ’marker’ at Augusta National

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Rory McIlroy Photo by: Google Images

Rory McIlroy saw the funny side as he was beaten by a member on Saturday as his Masters dream died at Augusta National.

The Ulsterman’s hopes of a green jacket were dashed despite a third round 71, one under par, as Americans Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth set the pace in Georgia.

McIlroy now stands on three over par for the first Major of the year, eight shots behind the leaders and his misery was completed when a local showed him how to play the most famous golf course in the world.

Sent out with local multi-millionaire businessman Jeff Knox as his ‘marker’, McIlroy was outscored on the front nine and the card by the well known amateur stalwart.

And the former world number one could see the funny side of it afterwards as he joked with the media about a game that would have seen him beaten 4&3 in matchplay.

McIlroy said: “Jeff is a great player. He beat me by one. I thought he was going to be nice and 3-putt the last and we would have a halve, but he beat me by one.

“He obviously knows this place so well and gets it round.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone putt the greens as well as he does around here.  He was really impressive.

“I was thinking of maybe getting him to read a few of my putts out there! He played really well and he couldn’t have been more helpful.  He was really nice all the way around.

“Going out with a marker might have been different, had it been someone that wasn’t up to Jeff’s calibre. But he played just like he should be competing in the Masters himself.”

Knox is no mean slouch and holds the course record at Augusta after shooting an 11 under par 61 in 2002 from the members’ tees.

The Masters record of 63 is held jointly by Nick Price and Greg Norman while Knox’s best score from the championship tees is 69, one shot better than his 70 on Saturday.

The multi–millionaire businessman has been Augusta’s official marker for the last dozen Masters and last year played with current leader and 2012 champion Bubba Watson in the third round.

First out on Saturday morning after just making the cut for the 51 strong field for the final two rounds, McIlroy will have a pro for company in Sunday but knows his Masters race is already run.

He added: “Obviously I wanted something a little better than that going out this morning, but with the way these greens are and the way the golf course is set up, it’s hard to go really low on this golf course like I needed to try and get myself back in the tournament.

“My best finish here is 15th, which isn’t really anything to shout about, so it would be nice to play well tomorrow, shoot something in the mid to high 60s and maybe finish the week in red figures.

“I think a good goal would be to have my best finish ever at Augusta and go from there. It wouldn’t be the week that I would have wanted from the start, but the way the last two days have went it wouldn’t be a bad way to finish the week.

“I don’t know what it is. I seem to throw in a high number every year. Last year it was a 79, this year it was a 77. At least it’s getting a little better. It’s just turning those 77s and the high ones into 72s or 73s, that’s the real key for me around here.”

Darren Clarke goes into the final round on five over par after a third round 73 and is backing McIlroy to win at Augusta in the future.

Clarke said: “Rory has all the talent in the world, he shot under par today and I watched a little bit of his round yesterday and he didn’t do an awful lot wrong.

“He got a lot of really bad breaks and that’s just Augusta. One or two bad breaks can happen to anybody. It happened to Phil Mickelson.”

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