Published Saturday, 12 April 2014
McIlroy shakes hands with marker Knox on the 18th. (© Getty)
As the last of 51 players to make the halfway cut on the mark of four over par on Friday evening, the Holywood golfer was in the first group out, with club member Jeff Knox alongside as a non-competing marker.
And Knox, who performed the same role for defending champion Bubba Watson last year, proceeded to show the two-time major winner exactly how to play the course, carding a two-under 70 to McIlroy's 71.
McIlroy had to birdie three of the last four holes to keep it that close - in match play he would have lost four and three.
"Jeff was a great player and beat me by one. I thought he was going to be nice and three-putt the last so we could have a nice half," he said.
"I don't think I have ever seen anyone putt the greens as well. I was thinking of getting him to read some of mine. He looked like he should be playing in the Masters."
McIlroy got off to a good start with a two-putt birdie on the second, but his approach to the short third ran over the green and he was unable to get up and down for par, while birdie chances went begging on the fourth and sixth.
An errant tee shot led to another bogey on the seventh and an outward nine of 37 completed in 90 minutes, with Knox - who holds the course record of 61 from the members' tees - out in 35 after matching McIlroy's birdie on the second.
McIlroy dropped another shot on the 10th after missing the green left for the second day running, and was forced to smile when he missed for birdie on the 12th only to see Knox casually hole from 30 feet.
McIlroy drove into Rae's Creek on the left of the 13th and although he saved par after a penalty drop, another birdie putt catching the edge of the hole on the 14th and staying out summed up his day so far.
The 24-year-old two-putted the 15th for birdie and finally holed a long putt for another on the 17th, while a superb approach to four feet on the 18th ended the day on a high note.
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke fired a third round of 73 at the Masters, while Graeme McDowell missed the cut on Friday.
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