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Rory McIlroy loses Masters round to amateur partner

Rory McIlroy, left, has a laugh with Jeff Knox, a noncompeting marker who shoots 70 to McIlroy’s 71.

Associated Press

Rory McIlroy, left, has a laugh with Jeff Knox, a noncompeting marker who shoots 70 to McIlroy’s 71.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rory McIlroy birdied three of his final four holes in the Masters' third round Saturday, shooting 1-under 71, but he lost the matchup with his amateur playing partner.

Augusta National member Jeff Knox, 51, went out with McIlroy as a noncompeting marker because an odd number of players made the cut. He shot 2-under 70 despite bogeying 18.

"I thought he was going to be nice and three-putt the last and we would have a half, but he beat me by one," said McIlroy, who was 3 over for the tournament. "He obviously knows this place so well and gets it around. 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."

Knox, who runs a family charitable foundation, is a two-time Georgia mid-amateur champion and was third in last year's Georgia amateur championship. The 70 isn't even his best score in the Masters, where he has been the marker since 2002. He once shot 69 and has over the years played with Bubba Watson, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia. He holds the member course record of 61, shot from the member tees in a nontournament round in 2003.

Knox would not speak to the media Saturday.

Experience rules, too: A week before debuting on the 50-and-over Champions Tour, Miguel Angel Jimenez, 50, shot 6-under 66 in the third round for the best score of the day and to tie the Masters record for a round by a 50-or-older player (Ben Hogan at 54 in 1967's third round, Fred Couples at 50 in 2010's first round).

After a round that included seven birdies against a lone bogey, Jimenez was at 3-under 213. That not only left the Spaniard within striking distance of the lead but gave him thoughts of winning his first major.

"I have plenty of victories in my career, and having a major in my career would be amazing," Jimenez said. "That would be the flower on top, to say so."

It's not new territory for Jimenez, who led the British Open by a shot last year after the second round before fading with 77 in the third. He would be the oldest player to win a major.

"I will try to. I will try to," he said. "If I can play golf and control the ball, I have my chances."

RATINGS GAME: The TV ratings continue to be down for this Tiger Woods-less Masters. ESPN said its telecast of the second round had about 2.5 million viewers, down from last year's 4.2 million, which was the highest for a Friday since ESPN began airing the Masters in 1998. Over the first two days, the ratings were down 36 percent.

GENTLE BEN: Ben Crenshaw first showed up at the Masters as a 20-year-old amateur. Next year will be his 44th consecutive appearance — and his last. Crenshaw told the Golf Channel he has decided 2015 will be his final year playing the Masters.

Crenshaw won the first of his two Masters titles in 1984, memorable for a 60-foot putt he made on the 10th hole. In 1995 he won after starting the week as a pallbearer at the funeral of longtime coach Harvey Penick.

"It is hard — very hard," Crenshaw said of his decision; he hasn't made the cut since 2007. "But I have been so fortunate. … I have to pull over and watch."

Odds and ends: Eight of the past nine major winners trailed entering the final round. Each of the past four Masters winners did, too. … Gary Woodland, who won the 2011 PGA Tour event at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, shot 6-under 30 on the front nine, matching lowest score ever on front side.

Information from ESPN, cbssports.com, the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was used in this report.

Rory McIlroy loses Masters round to amateur partner 04/12/14 [Last modified: Saturday, April 12, 2014 10:34pm]

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