April 9, 2011
Couples: Masters not over yet"It's hard to play this course when you're leading"
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
AUGUSTA — With one round to play, it is a Masters leaderboard that has plenty of talent and experience but they’re all looking up at a 21-year-old kid.
On moving day Saturday, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy refused to budge. While one player after another tried to take a run at him, nobody could catch him and he goes to the first tee today with a four-stroke lead.
“Yeah, the young kids are playing very well,” said Angel Cabrera, the grizzled veteran from Argentina, who won this title two years ago and who will play with McIlroy Sunday in the final pairing.
“But obviously I have won the Masters, so that should help me a lot.”
McIlroy sits at 12-under-par 204 after his tidy round of 70 in the third round. Cabrera, Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi and Jason Day are all tied at eight-under-par.
Adam Scott and Luke Donald are another stroke behind, one ahead of the top American, Bo Van Pelt.
It’s unlikely anyone can catch McIlroy unless he falters, given that he has played such solid golf all week. Do his opponents have to come out with guns blazing or wait until they see if the youngster from Northern Ireland can stand the heat?
“It all depends,” said Scott. “You’ve got to start your round and start playing and see how things are, but once you are on 10, that’s when you know the tournament starts, that’s when you know you have to be aggressive but at the same time you have to be a little bit careful and conservative when the time is right.”
Yesterday, the top 10 players did very little moving but players who were out early and under no pressure, scored well. Cabrera, Schwartzel, Scott Donald and Van Pelt all came from well off the pace to overtake all but McIlroy, Choi and Day.
“Whoever can shoot six or seven-under up there on that board has a great shot at winning if they can do that,” said Fred Couples, who finished the day where he started: at 5-under, seven strokes behind.
Couples thinks there is hope for the group that is chasing McIlroy.
“It’s hard to play this course when you’re leading,” said the 1992 Masters champ.
While others will be plotting his demise, McIlroy has an important engagement Sunday morning.
“There’s a big rugby match on (Sunday),” he said. “Ulster, my team, are playing Northampton, so I’ll have to get up at about 10:00 to watch that. I haven’t had any trouble sleeping the last three nights, so hopefully it’ll be the same.”
The better scores were posted by players out early, unencumbered by lofty expectations on Saturday.
“I think there was a little bit less expectations because (the leaders) are always going to have a little bit more pressure than what we had,” said Scott, who shot 67. “It was almost nice to tee off where I did and sort of sneak in from behind.”