The trees are ready to roar and the ground is ready to shake, but for that to happen Sunday, Rory McIlroy will have to cooperate. If the kid from Northern Ireland plays the way he has for the first three rounds, Sunday will simply be a coronation.
The 21-year-old holds a four-stroke lead heading into the final round of 75th Masters Tournament. Only three players have ever squandered a lead of four shots or more with the 54-hole Augusta lead, most recently Greg Norman in 1996, who led by six shots after Saturday.
If McIlroy isn’t wearing green for Sunday’s Augusta sunset, something will have gone terribly wrong — his nerves, his swing, his decision-making — something.
But remember, he’s 21. Things happen when you’re 21.
“It’s natural to get nervous,” McIlroy said after his round of 70 Saturday. “If I wasn’t nervous on the first tee (Sunday), there would be something wrong.”
Saturday, he looked anything but nervous. As Tiger Woods missed putt after putt, and Jason Day charged then faltered, McIlroy bounced around the course with composure well beyond his years.
“I stuck to my game plan really well, stayed really patient. You know, things weren’t going that well for me, 1-over through 12 holes, and then I played the last six holes in 3-under. It was great.”
Listening to McIlroy on the interview podium after the third round, it’s hard to hear a 21-year-old. You see a 21-year-old, with the curly hair poking out from under his baseball cap, his shoulders shrugging and his eyes wide, but his words echo a different feel.
“To be honest, I have to say, in my own mind, start (Sunday) fresh and just say, look, there’s no lead, there’s no nothing,” McIlroy said Saturday. “I’ve just got to go out there and play solid golf.”
Lurking if McIlroy stumbles Sunday is a host of players. Sixteen players sit within eight shots of the lead – the largest deficit ever overcome on the final day of The Masters — including Woods, who won the tournament as a 21-year-old in 1997, several months younger than McIlroy. Woods enters Sunday five-under and seven shots behind the young leader.
“Absolutely,” Woods said after his round Saturday when asked if he could still win. “I’ve got to go out there (Sunday) and put together a good round, and we’ll see what happens.”
‘We’ll see what happens.’
Translation: As long as McIlroy chokes.
The tournament’s in his 21-year-old hands.
Follow Vince’s coverage of The Masters LIVE Sunday on Twitter at www.twitter.com/vincejohnson.