Rory McIlroy played with a 'marker' during the third round of the Masters, but was unable to shoot a lower score than him

On Saturday morning at Augusta National, the 2014 Masters looked so wide open with 36 holes to play that it even seemed conceivable for Rory McIlroy to work his way back into contention – despite beginning the day at four-over par and at the back of the field, 11 shots behind the second-round leader Bubba Watson.

In an odd-numbered field of 51 golfers for the weekend, McIlroy teed off first today at 10:15, in the company of a non-competing marker, Augusta National member Jeff Knox.

Well, not only did McIlroy confirm that 2014 is not going to be his year at the Masters, with a decent round of 71, one under par – a decent score but not the spectacular he required – but 51-year-old amateur Knox calmly knocked his ball around in 70, two under par, to beat McIlroy by one. You read correctly: a 51-year-old amateur beat the world number nine and pre-tournament favourite by a shot.

“Jeff is a great player,” started a magnanimous McIlroy after their round. “He beat me by one. I thought he was going to be nice and three‑putt the last and we would have a half, but he didn’t! Jeff played just like he should be playing in the Masters himself.

“Jeff obviously knows this place so well and gets it round. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone putt the greens as well as he does. He was really impressive. I was thinking of maybe getting him to read a few of my putts out there. Jeff played really well and he couldn’t have been more helpful.”

Knox is an experienced marker in the Masters, although the club requested he not speak to the media after today’s round.

McIlroy finished on a positive note at least, posting birdies at the tough 17th and 18th par fours, to slip into red figures for the day.

“Jeff told me to go out there and continue the birdie run tomorrow,” added McIlroy. “I finished with two in a row and he said, ‘Go out and make it two more in a row tomorrow’.”

Robin Barwick travelled to Augusta National courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, Global Sponsor of the 2014 Masters Tournament