Rory McIlroy shows signs of the old style

World No 2 finds some of his lost touch as he builds towards the Masters at Augusta this week

San Antonio

Rory McIlroy saw some promising signs but also a few of this season's uncertainties as he continued his preparations for the Masters.

The World No 2 finished the third round of the Valero Texas Open, a tournament he came into late in search of better form, four shots off the lead after a shooting a one-under-par 71. He goes into the final round today two shots behind the American Billy Horschel, who retained his overnight lead.

McIlroy hit only seven of 14 fairways for the second time in the tournament, continuing his trend of up-and-down play this year, which has coincided with an offseason equipment change.

The two-time major winner, who lost the top ranking to Tiger Woods this year, signed up for the tournament only last week and the ploy appears to be paying off.

McIlroy was six under for the tournament going into the final round and in a tie for fourth place after a magnificent 67 on Friday. He started in similar vein yesterday with two birdies in his first three holes, but that form did not last.

Things looked to be going wrong when he had bogey fives at the fourth, 10th and 11th but it was a good sign that there was no hint of the despondency that seems to have affected him at times since the start of the season. He did after all rescue the round with birdies at the 12th and 14th to move back into contention.

Horschel, who opened with back-to-back 68s, had five birdies and three bogeys in a 70 to put him on 10 under, two clear of compatriots Charley Hoffman and Jim Furyk.

McIlroy was in a group of three on six under with Ryan Palmer, who had the best round of the day, a 68, and Bob Estes, who shot a 69.

Woods knows all about losing form, although in his case the reasons were easier to fathom. Now he is back as a serious challenger for The Masters eight years after he rolled in a 15ft birdie putt in a play-off to win his fourth green jacket.

"It's been one of those things where I've been close there so many times on that back nine on Sunday and I just haven't won," Woods said. "I've been in the mix. I've been right there with just a few holes to go, and it just hasn't happened. Hopefully, this year it will be a different story."

This might be his best chance to end the drought, not only at Augusta, but in the majors. His last win was the 2008 US Open.

Woods, 37, is fully healthy for the first time in years. He appears happy in his personal life, after the scandal that ruined his marriage and his image, announcing a few weeks ago that he is now dating Lindsey Vonn, the Olympic skiing champion.

He is also winning titles again at an alarming rate – six out of his past 20 starts on the US PGA Tour, three of them coming this season. He could hardly be in a better state heading into the Masters.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas