Rory McIlroy has probably played his last RBC Heritage despite returning from a late-afternoon thunderstorm delay to birdie two of his closing four holes in a score of 70 for an 11-under par tally.
McIlroy had dropped 23 places heading into the final round to be well down the board sharing 51st place at one-over for the day and back to nine-under par with four holes to play when a warning sounded sending competitors back to the clubhouse.
Following the one hour and 46-minute delay McIlroy birdied the par-5 15th and also the par-3 17th that left him then trailing still well adrift of a packed top end of the South Carolina leaderboard.
Webb Simpson found his name at the head of affairs at the close of play after recording birdies at three of his last four holes and five of his last seven in a stunning closing 64 for a 22-under par total.
The American edged Abraham Ancer into second place by a single stroke with last week’s Charles Schwab winner Daniel Berger in a tie for third alongside Tyrrell Hatton at minus-20.
McIlroy, for a second week running in this COVID-19 hit season, struggled over the four rounds to make his present felt.
There was the brilliance of his second round 65 and also a 66 on day three but McIlroy soured his return to Hilton Head with a mediocre opening 72 and his last day showing.
The World No. 1 had joined the Tour in ending a 91-day absence in teeing-up at Fort Worth but only to share 32nd place before this tie for 41st.
Little wonder McIlroy had never prior in his career teed-up in Fort Worth while he had just teed-up at Hilton Head once before and that was in 2009.
Prior to the lockdown, McIlroy won his second event of the 2019/20 wraparound season with victory at the HSBC Champions in China and then in 2020 proper, he savoured a second and three fifth place results.
In hopefully getting back next year to a ‘normal’ 2020/21 Tour schedule, one would not expect McIlroy to again enter the Texas and South Carolina events.
And he was asked that very question in ending the RBC Heritage.
“Once I got here and I played the golf course, I sort of remembered why I haven’t been here for a while as it’s tough,” he said.
“Like it’s a lovely place. There are other courses on Tour that probably fit my game a little bit better, and obviously the week after the Masters is always a tough one.
“Guys like to come here and decompress, but my idea of decompression is not seeing golf clubs for a week.”
I would suggest reading between the lines of McIlroy’s response he will not be returning to Hilton Head in 2021 nor thereafter.
McIlroy went into the last day just inside the top-30 at 10-under par and while he birdied the second to move to 11-under, it proved to be the highwater mark of his challenge on the course laid out along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline.
McIlroy found the water guarding the green at the par-3 fourth before walking off with a double-bogey ‘5’ to spoil hopes of an eighth top-5 in his 10 events.
He then dropped a further shot at the seventh and then managed to claw one back at the short ninth where he went within 20-feet of finding the green with his drive.
McIlroy followed with six straight pars and was on the tee at the par-5 15th when a storm-warning siren sounded forcing golfers from the course.
“I got off to a decent start, and then the ball in the water on four and that just sort of stopped any momentum,” he said.
“I played okay after that, I guess. I birdied nine and then birdied a couple coming in on the homestretch.
“So, it’s fine. It’s one of those weeks where, obviously, low scores, very bunched. You had to hole a lot of putts, and I didn’t over the week. But I’m still pretty happy with how I played going into the next weekend in Hartford.”
At the close of the Hilton Head event, McIlroy was heading north to Connecticut for a third and his last of the four ‘no spectator’ events
McIlroy will tee-up in Thursday’s starting Travelers Championship in an event where he enjoyed back-to-back 64s in his only two showings on the TPC River Highlands course in Connecticut.
McIlroy had shot a last day 64 to grab a T17th finish in 2017 and a year later he opened with a 64 to set-up an eventual T12th effort.
Joining McIlroy in the event is Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell with the duo each looking to play all four days for the first time since returning to competition on June 11th.
Full scoring HERE & final round highlights below