• The Masters

School of marker Knox for McIlroy

ESPN staff
April 12, 2014
Rory McIlroy was beaten by Augusta National marker Jeff Knox © Getty Images

Rory McIlroy said ahead of the Masters that experience at Augusta National is the key to a successful tournament.

And so it proved, as the Northern Irishman was sent out on Saturday with a marker - club member Jeff Knox - and promptly beaten.

McIlroy rolled home a par putt at 18 on Friday to scrape inside the cut line and, due to an odd number of players to make the weekend, Knox had the chance to play a round with the two-time major champion.

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Knox is no chump around the hallowed Georgia turf. He holds the course record of 61 which he shot in 2002 - albeit from the members' tees; from the pro tees his best is 69. And while the 51-year-old amateur carded a 2-under 70, McIlroy could only manage a 71 to move tentatively up the leaderboard to 4-over par.

McIlroy's start was promising with a birdie at the par-5 second, but he missed with his approach at the third and failed to get down in two from the fringe. Further bogeys at seven and 10 saw him drop to 6-over par, but he picked up three shots in his last four holes to ensure he finished under par for the round.

It means McIlroy won't be playing with Knox on Sunday. That honour is likely to go to Joost Luiten after the Dutchman slumped to a 77 and end day three at 9-over par.

"Jeff is a great player and beat me by one," McIlroy said. "I thought he was going to be nice and three-putt the last so we could have a nice half!

"I don't think I've ever seen anyone putt the greens so well. I was thinking of getting him to read some of mine. He looked like he should be playing in the Masters.

"I enjoyed the round - it's not an experience I want to have again, but the course was fiery from the start. The guys are going to find it interesting this afternoon.

"It was nice to see a couple of putts drop on the back nine. I thought I played well enough to shoot something lower but anything around 69, 70 is going to be a good score today."

Knox, Augusta's marker for the last decade, has previously played with the likes Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia - who reportedly refused to shake Knox's hand after the Spaniard was outplayed over 18 holes.

Elsewhere, having opened with a 76, Ian Poulter put himself back in contention with back-to-back 70s - but it could have been so much better for the Englishman, who was left to rue clumsy mistakes at 12 and 14.

"I'm raging yet again," he said. "70 on Friday, 70 on Saturday and not a true reflection of how I played.

"I was 4-under for the round and couldn't see myself making any mistakes. But I'm disgusted with the way I finished.

"I'm still in a position to make a run at the leaders tomorrow but it could have been so much better."

Earlier in the day, Gary Woodland briefly moved into contention when he played the front nine in a record-equalling 30 - a feat only previously achieved by Johnny Miller (1975), Greg Norman (1988), KJ Choi (2004) and Phil Mickelson (2009).

But the big-hitting American carded bogeys at 11, 14 and 18, as well as a double at 12, to record a 69 and end the third round at level-par.

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