AUGUSTA, Ga. - Rory McIlroy came into this Masters on top of the world and on the cusp of the career Grand Slam. Now he is just like everyone else in the field: looking up and marveling at Jordan Spieth.
McIlroy made a bit of a run in the third round Saturday, reaching 8 under par, which was then within sight of the leader. But he bogeyed two of his final three holes and finished 6 under -- an exasperated 6 under.
"Look, I'm going to need something basically around 61, 62 to have a real chance. I'm not sure that's going to happen, but we'll see," said the world's No. 1 player, whose run of consecutive majors victories appears set to end at two.
Which is not to say that someone else can't catch Spieth. If anyone knows that the 21-year-old is not a lock, it is McIlroy.
He was 21 and in apparent control here four years ago, then let it slip away with a dramatic back-nine collapse.
"I think the good thing for him is he's already experienced it once. He has played in the final group at the Masters before," McIlroy said, referring to Spieth's runner-up finish last year. "I think he'll have learned from that experience. I think all that put together, he'll definitely handle it a lot better than I did."
McIlroy never did put himself in serious contention this week. His best achievement was not giving up after shooting 40 on the front nine Friday, putting himself in jeopardy of missing the cut. He recovered with 5-under 31 on the back nine that day and followed with a 32 on the front Saturday.
He just has yet to put four good days together at Augusta National. "I don't know, silly mistakes," he said, his voice soft and his smile wan. "I missed a couple short ones yesterday on the greens."
Still, he does not feel Spieth breathing down his neck for the No. 1 world ranking. Spieth currently is No. 4. "I just have to worry about myself and try to play the best I can. I know if I do that, then that No. 1 position is pretty safe," he said. "He's playing very well, but I know I have the capability to do the same thing."