DORAL, Fla. – On the easiest day of the Cadillac Championship, Rory McIlroy moved the wrong way.
And in a flash, his hopes at Doral were just about gone.
McIlroy had two double bogeys in a three-hole stretch to serve as the lowlight of his round of 3-over 75 on Saturday, when he wound up in a tie for 19th place and seven shots behind leader Patrick Reed.
A great recovery and chip-in birdie at the par-4 18th salvaged at least the ending, but McIlroy knew the third round was an opportunity lost.
"Couldn't hole a putt for birdie, so may as well chip one in," McIlroy said. "It was a tough day. Hit two balls in the water on 8, didn't play the par 5s well at all, played those in 4 over, so when you do that right here you're sort of putting yourself behind the 8-ball a little bit."
McIlroy was even for his day when he got to the par-5 eighth, then wound up making double there, and double again at the par-5 10th. He steadied himself with six straight pars after that, then had the chip-in that at least left him smiling.
He shot 65 in the final round at Doral — albeit a different-looking Doral — last year, and said he'd need an effort like that Sunday to have any chance to win. And the chip-in, he said, could be a springboard.
"For sure, yeah," McIlroy said. "It gives you momentum going into tomorrow, definitely. I'd rather stand on the first tee tomorrow 3 over than 4 over."
McIlroy said the long day on Friday, when the rain-delayed first round had to be finished and then the second round played in a ripping wind, left him so tired that he was asleep by 10 p.m.
He wound up shooting 74 in the second round, a very good score under those conditions. Somehow on Saturday, he was worse on a day where scores were for the taking at Doral.
"It was a day to just sort of shoot something," McIlroy said.
After Sunday, he'll get plenty of time to rest. McIlroy plans to take three weeks off, play Houston and then go to Augusta National for the Masters.
GREEN, NOT BLUE: In the span of 11 holes, Phil Mickelson got himself right back into the Cadillac Championship. He didn't seem that impressed.
After all, his thinking is less about the Blue Monster and more on another green jacket.
Following three bogeys over his first seven holes Saturday, Mickelson strung together six birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way at Trump International Doral, going from 8 over to 2 over and from near the bottom of the leaderboard to within striking distance in the span of about two hours. He'll enter Sunday's final round tied for 14th place, six shots behind Patrick Reed.
"I feel like the parts are getting better," Mickelson said. "I'm still a little rusty. I have not been mentally that sharp. To play better each day has been good for me and the result of this particular tournament is not my biggest priority right now, but with Augusta right around the corner it's time to get going."
It's no surprise that Mickelson is eyeing the Masters already. He's one of eight men who have at least three Masters titles, his coming in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
Mickelson is only scheduled to play Houston before heading to Augusta National. He indicated that his schedule isn't completed etched in stone, and if he leaves Doral at the end of the Cadillac Championship thinking he needs more competitive rounds to get ready for the Masters he's open to entering one more event.
"I don't see myself adding one, but I wouldn't rule it out," Mickelson said. "I just don't know. We'll talk about it. My game's starting to feel better even though my results this year haven't shown it. But I feel close, so I'm not overly concerned."
NEW DAY: In all, 52 players lowered the score they posted in the second round, seven shot exactly the same and nine somehow managed to shoot a higher score than they did on a super-windy Friday at Doral.
Jamie Donaldson was one of those nine who didn't match the number he posted Friday. But he's still very much in the tournament.
Donaldson shot a 1-under 71 on Saturday, one shot worse than his second-round score but one that left him tied for fourth and only three shots off the lead.
"Even with no wind on this cold course, it's still a very tough test," Donaldson said.
DIVOTS: Donald Trump appeared on NBC's broadcast of the third round and raved again about the course his organization bought and rebuilt, said he was "so proud" of Doral "and even the way it played" during Friday's wind. ... Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano shot 77 for the third straight round. ... Luke Donald shot 82 in the second round, then shaved 10 shots off that on Saturday. ... Jimmy Walker moved up 25 spots into a tie for ninth, Tiger Woods moved up 21 spots into a tie for fourth and Justin Rose (70) moved up 18 spots into a tie for 28th. Going the other way: Charl Schwartzel and Chris Kirk both fell 26 places into a tie for 37th. ... Keegan Bradley tried throwing a wedge toward his bag after not particularly liking one of his shots on the front nine. It missed the bag, though, and bounced across a fairway. He shot 75.