Rory McIlroy was probably pleased there were no spectators present to see him produce a horror final round at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.
McIlroy looked anything but the World No. 1 posting just three birdies but six bogeys and a double in a shock round of 74 for a six-under par total and a share of 32nd in his first showing on the Colonial course.
The American duo of Collin Morikawa (67) and Daniel Berger (66) ended regulation play tied at 15-under par with the 23-year old Morikawa missing a six-footer for birdie at the last in regulation that would have handed him a second PGA Tour title.
Morikawa then horribly missed a three-footer at the first extra hole for bogey, the par-4 17th, to hand Berger on a plate the first Tour title in three months and his third career Tour title.
After a brilliant second day 63, it was a weekend of disappointment for McIlroy in the Tour’s return to competition after a 91-day COVID-19 lockdown.
McIlroy had been just two shots off the lead heading to day three but ended the round four shots from the front and then when it counted, the four-time Major winner went missing on day four.
It is McIlroy’s poorest four-round showing since October 2018 in sharing a distant 54th place at the WGC – HSBC Champions event in China.
Also, it’s a third occasion in his seven Tour events in this stop-start 2019/20 schedule since last October that he’s posted a round of 73 or worse on a final day.
McIlroy superbly found the opening hole fairway but it turned awfully pear-shaped in sending his second some 52-yards right of the green and clearing a cart path from where he chipped out sideways. He made the green in 4, missed his 7ft par putt before holing for a bogey 6, and this after McIlroy had played the first hole, ranked the easiest on the Texas course, in four-under over the prior three days.
McIlroy was in more trouble at the par-3 fourth hole in finding a greenside bunker before posting a bogey ‘4’ to drop to eight-under. He then reversed further to seven-under with a dropped shot at the par-4 fifth hole, on this occasion finding a greenside bunker with his second.
Worst was still to come and any thoughts of a first McIlroy win of the year vanished in finding deep rough left off the seventh tee before needing four shots from just 41-yards shy of the green in taking a double-bogey ‘6’.
McIlroy had slumped to five-over through seven holes but then after taking four shots from 41-feet from the flag for a bogey at the ninth, he was headed to his final nine holes having slumped to a share of 45th place at six-over for his round and four-under for the event.
TV coverage had long deserted McIlroy to focus more on playing partner, Bryson ‘Hulk Hogan’ DeChambeau who was handing McIlroy a real golf lesson as the bulked-up 26-year old was brushing all and sundry aside.
Paul McGinley had been singing McIlroy’s praise ahead of SKY TV coverage on the final day and very politely likened McIlroy’s self-destruction to the ‘nature of the game’.
“I think Rory has probably checked-out mentally and he’s not going to win the tournament, and coming back after a three-month hiatus and not being quite on his intensity level, he’s made the mistakes,” said McGinley.
“It’s just the nature of the game and nobody finds this game easy and that’s the case even with the very best.”
Nick Faldo, on the opposite side of ‘The Pond’, and commentating from his Orlando abode, was a little more critical suggesting McIlroy lacks a ‘Plan B’ when he finds himself in such final day scenarios.
“When Rory is struggling like this, I just can’t understand why he just doesn’t have a ‘Plan B’ to switch to,” said Faldo.
“There’s just too much frustration going on and he just can’t switch plans.”
McIlroy finally stopped the bleeding at the short par-4 10th hole in landing a 145-yard second shot to just five-feet and finding the bottom of the cup finally for a first birdie in all of 14 holes.
He was back inside the top-40 at five-under but a massive 10 shots behind Collin Morikawa, then out in front by a shot at 15-under, and playing four groups behind McIlroy.
More disappointment and a seventh dropped shot of the day came when McIlroy found yet another greenside bunker but then on this occasion, he failed to get out in regulation before splashing out to three-feet and falling to six-over for the round and just four-under for the event.
Yet another greenside bunker at the par-3 16th but on this occasion a stroke of brilliance with McIlroy splashing-out to hole a super 52-footer for only a second birdie to burst back inside the top-40 but at five-over par.
McIlroy parred 17 and then when it was all too late, he drained an 11-footer for birdie at the 72nd to end his round of a four-over par 74.
“I got off to a really bad start hitting a loose second shot on the first hole up to the right and then sort of messed around and took bogey there, so not the ideal start,” he said.
“And then the wind was up today. You didn’t have to be that much off for it to sort of show, and missed a couple of greens in the wrong spots and made bogeys. Yeah, I just got off to a bad start.
“But you know, sort of played all the way to the end, shot a decent back nine. I was a couple under on the back.
“The front nine I just got into a rut and played a bad run of holes, and obviously that put me out of the tournament.”
There were no handshakes, no pats on the back and thankfully no spectators to witness what had unfolded over the past three hours and 50 mins