NEWCASTLE - Rory McIlroy ignited hopes of a first tournament victory of the season on Thursday as he birdied two of his closing four holes to stay in touch with the leaders at the British Masters. McIlroy, who carded a three-under-par 67, was just three shots behind the clubhouse-leading foursome of Spain's Alvaro Quiros, England's Chris Hanson and the Finnish duo of Mikko Ilonen and Mikko Korhonen. McIlroy started his round at Close House near the northeastern city of Newcastle from the 10th hole, dropping a shot at the 12th before bouncing back immediately with a birdie. At the uphill par-four 17th McIlroy lost his ball in deep rough after an errant drive and found it within seconds of the allowed five minutes, thanks to help from spectators. He hit a further 3 birdies on his back 9.