Rory McIlroy will head to the Masters on a positive note after posting a final round six-under par 66 at the ZoZo Championship at Thousand Oaks to the north of L.A.
McIlroy went into the last day of the $8m event at nine-under par, trailing 10 shots behind American Justin Thomas.
The current World No. 5, wearing a grey Nike hoodie, almost drove the green at the first with the ball coming to rest 38-feet from the flag but with McIlroy having to balance himself on the edge of the bunker from where he chipped to just three feet for birdie.
McIlroy two-putted the second from 34-foot for a second straight birdie and move to 11-under par.
He then posted seven straight pars before finally making his move to inside the top-20 for the first time over the four days after he stepped onto the 10th tee and then rattled off four birdies in succession.
McIlroy holed a three-footer on 10, two-putted the par-5 11th from 20-feet, almost holed his tee-shot at the par-3 12th hole to then sink his two-footer while he then chipped and putted to just five-feet for a birdie at the par-5 13th hole.
The four one-putt birdies lifted him 17 places to a share of 15th at 15-under par.
McIlroy then muscled his way to a share of 10th in launching a soaring tee shot over water guarding the green to land the ball 20-feet behind the flag and then sent that to the bottom of the cup and move to 16-under.
The effort, and after also a one-putt on 15, made for six one-putts in succession for McIlroy.
The only McIlroy mishap of the day was at 16 when his second shot found water to the right front of the hole resulting in a bogey ‘6’. A day earlier he had been also seven-under playing the last only to walk off with a double-bogey.
McIlroy ended his round with two pars and the then clubhouse lead at 15-under but with the leaders making the ‘turn’ at 22-under par and Patrick Cantlay coming from behind to shoot 3-under on the back nine and win by one stroke over Justin Thomas on a 23-under par total.
McIlroy said: I played great on Saturday to be 7-under coming to the last hole and made a double and then again today, 7-under playing the last three and made a bogey on the way in.
“But yeah, look, the game’s there, hitting plenty of good shots, giving myself plenty of chances so I felt like I played pretty good the last three days. Game is definitely feeling better than it did when I headed out here.
“I will now go up to Augusta a couple of times. I might go up once and spend a night and play a couple of days or maybe go up a couple separate times.
“So, not playing Houston and Augusta’s my next one and I’ll take a couple of months off after that and come back for Torrey Pines in the New Year, I think”.
Looking back on McIlroy’s round he hit 11 of 14 fairways and had 28 putts.