PRE-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy's luckless week at the Masters continued Saturday when he was beaten over 18 holes at Augusta National by Jeff Knox, the non-competing marker playing alongside him.
Two-time major champion McIlroy, the last of 51 players to make the cut, was the first man out in the third round and was assigned Knox, a veteran of such situations, as an amateur playing partner to keep score and aid the pace of play.
McIlroy, who struggled to a 77 Friday to make the cut on the number, closed with back-to-back birdies to finish on one-under 71 Saturday but it was not good enough to beat Knox, a 48-year-old Augusta National member who fired a 70, one off his best-ever round off the club's professionals' tees.
"Jeff is a great player. 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," McIlroy said.
Knox, who played as a marker last year alongside Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley, has the Augusta National club record of 61 off the members' tees from 2002.
McIlroy sped through the front nine in 90 minutes at one-over 37 while Knox fired a 35.
"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," McIlroy said.
"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."
McIlroy was fine with the experience of being accompanied by a marker in part because of the strength of Knox's play.
"It would have been different, had it been someone that wasn't up to Jeff's calibre, but he played just like he should be playing in the Masters."
McIlroy has all-but given up on anything more than trying to improve upon his best Masters finish a share of 15th from 2011 after he collapsed on the back nine after leading for the first three and a half days.
McIlroy has suffered at least one bad day every year at the Masters to thwart his green jacket dreams.
"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."
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