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Donald's Masters run unravels over closing stretch

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - A frustrated Luke Donald blew his chances of contending for the Masters after dropping five shots on the tricky back nine in Saturday's third round at Augusta National.

The British world number one, among the favorites for the year's first major, had made a sizzling start with an eagle at the par-four third but then struggled over the closing holes to card a three-over-par 75.

Donald, who had won his final tournament before the Masters with a victory at the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship, limped home in five-over 41 to post a seven-over total of 223.

"There is nothing worse than waking up on Sunday knowing that, whatever you do, it is not going to be good enough," the Englishman told reporters after ending up 12 strokes off the early third-round lead.

"It's difficult," Donald said of his messy finish to the round which included a double-bogey seven at the 13th where he dumped his second shot into Rae's Creek.

"You feel like you have lost your ability to contend on Sunday which is the goal at the majors, to have a chance. But I will always keep trying my hardest until the very end and tomorrow will be no different."

Though Donald has yet to win a major title, he has become one of the most consistent players of his generation and last year became the first golfer to win the money list titles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Renowned for a superb short game that should give him an edge on the heavily contoured and slick greens at Augusta National, the Briton felt he had played better on Saturday than his scoring suggested.

"I had a three-iron into 13 and thought I hit a decent shot but missed carrying (the water) by two inches, otherwise I would have been 30 feet for eagle," Donald said. "But I made seven.

"That's how this course is sometimes. Same on 14. I drilled a five-iron right of the pin and if it goes another three or four feet I have a 10-footer for birdie. It rolls down the hill 45 feet away and I three-putt.

"I was playing fine. It's just been one of those weeks."

Donald's brightest moment of the day came at the third where he holed out from the fairway with a lob wedge.

"I had 80 yards and spun it back down the hill perfectly into the hole," he said. "At that point I'm seven behind with great conditions and perfect greens.

"If I can just make four more birdies, I'm two or three under for the tournament and who knows.

"I've not played that badly. I've probably driven it as well as I ever have around here. My iron play hasn't been sharp enough and certainly not my short game."

Donald's best Masters finish came on his debut in 2005 when he tied for third after shooting successive 69s over the weekend.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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