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  • Shell Houston Open, Round Three

McIlroy falters after bright start

ESPN staff
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Rory McIlroy made a bright start but was unable to keep it going throughout the day © Getty Images
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World No. 2 Rory McIlroy failed to make the most of his great opening to the third round of the Shell Houston Open after dropping three shots in the final six holes - finishing on two-under-par.

The Northern Irishman after just making the play on the weekend made three birdies and six pars on the first nine. However, it was on the back nine where he let himself down by undoing all of his hard work to fall back down the standings, and his chances of regaining the No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods are all but over as he needed to win this week in Texas.

"Didn't have the best of finishes, but I saw a lot of positives out there," McIlroy said. "I hit the ball really well, the best I've hit it on the course this week and made me really happy with my game. I need to eradicate those mistakes.

In both of his previous rounds McIlroy had bogeyed the second holes, but the 23-year-old managed to sink a birdie in the third round to make a good start.

He found the water on the fourth but was able to save par, and when landing in the bunker on the fifth repeated the feat. McIlroy recorded a second birdie on the seventh par-three, stroking in from under 25-feet. And gaining confidence from that tremendous putt the world No. 2 made it back-to-back birdies on the eighth hole.

Three pars were then followed by another birdie on the 12th hole, but the solid start began to fall apart when McIlroy entered the next hole.

Finding the fairway from his tee-off, McIlroy then played his following shot straight into the bunker, and needing to putt from over from three-feet to the hole he failed to do so, dropping his first shot of the day.

Rather like buses, a second consecutive bogey knocked McIlroy back on the 14th par-three. He was in the bunker right from the very first strike and immediately on the back foot, unable to scramble par and falling another stroke behind.

McIlroy then parred the 15th,16th and 17th holes, and then let all of his earlier good work go to waste as his tee-off directly went into the water and forced him to settle for a bogey on the final hole to finish on two-under after three rounds.

Lee Westwood fired his way up the leaderboard after shooting a five-under-par to throw himself into contention for the tournament win, and is now two shots adrift. Stewart Cink moved to the top of the leaderboard and is the joint-leader with Bill Haas. Steve Wheatcroft fell down to tied third and is one shot off Cink along with D.A. Points and Ben Crane, while Phil Mickelson posted a 67 to also put himself in the mix, with Louis Oosthuizen tied for sixth spot after registering a 65.

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