It was case of just one tournament too many confessed Rory McIlroy who contested six of the past sevens events only to be bundled out for a second-year running at the WGC – Dell Technologies Match-Play in Austin, Texas.
McIlroy was never in front in a ‘must win’ third and final round robin match against American Brian Harman and was left somewhat red-faced in losing 5 & 3 to the Georgia-born golfer.
It was McIlroy’s second biggest loss in 39 matches in the event after being thumped 8 & 7 by Ben Crane in 2011.
McIlroy was back in the Austin Country Club clubhouse clearing out his locker before half of the 32 matches in the $10m event had reached the opening tee and now after eight matches ahead of the year’s first Major he heads to Augusta National with a win, a second, a third, a T20th, a T59th and effectively three missed cuts.
McIlroy began his year with back-to-back events in the Middle East and then has played six of the past seven weeks missing just the March 1-4 WGC – Mexico Championship.
“I think, on reflection, six tournaments in seven weeks was one too many,’ he said. “It was not the result I wanted and especially after what happened last week, that takes it out of you being in contention, and all that mental energy.”
“So, I wish I was hanging around for the weekend but I’ll rest up and get a little bit of work in before going to Augusta. It means I get a couple of days extra at home, that I wasn’t planning on.”
“I’ll just chill out, rest up a little bit, recharge the batteries, get into the gym. Sort of have a good week training and a good practice week. And just get myself ready for Augusta.”
McIlroy indicated his pre-Masters plans remain unchanged despite his shock loss and that is for he and caddy, Harry Diamond to spend next Wednesday and Thursday playing the course as guests of an Augusta National member. But then McIlroy indicated he will not contest the Par-3 contest on the eve of the Masters.
McIlroy and Harman halved the first two holes before Harman, contesting the event for a first occasion, won the third with a birdie after McIlroy found the rough with his drive and managed to advance his second shot around 100-yards.
McIlroy then conceded the fifth hole to Harman after a poor drive well right into a native area and left with no option but to chip out sideways.
Holes six, seven and eight were halved before the 31-year old Harman landed his second shot to just two-feet at the par-4 ninth hole to make the turn in 3-up.
McIlroy was 4-down and with the writing now of the wall when he stuck his second shot into the water guarding the green at the par-5 11th hole and conceded a hole for a second time in their match.
Harman clinched the encounter after McIlroy found a fairway bunker left at 15 and conceded the hole and the match in landing his third to 10-foot while Harman had a birdie putt from just 18 inches.