It took four days for the round that Rory McIlroy was waiting for to finally materialise at Augusta but his four-under par 68 to close out his latest attempt at the career Grand Slam will provide little consolation for the Holywood star.
In case you’re living under a rock, Tiger Woods went on to claim his 15th Major title and his 5th Green Jacket while McIlroy certainly wasn’t going to be a factor at the business end having started his final round on the 10th hole some twelve shots off the pace and lamenting too many silly mistakes and the absence of a bit of luck earlier in the week.
“You know, it’s always nice to get off to a good start, but at the same time, 73 on Thursday wasn’t that bad. I was only four shots off the lead. Obviously, the guys posted a couple of good numbers but there was just a few too many loose shots in there. I don’t think a 68 would have eradicated those loose shots later on in the week, it all sort of evens out in the end. And I didn’t just didn’t play well enough to give myself a chance,” said McIlroy.
With the pressure well and truly off, a visibly relaxed McIlroy started his final round with three pars before he got some of that luck he was hoping for as his approach to the par-5 13th hit the front of the green and bounced up to 10 feet when a dip into Rae’s Creek looked just as likely.
From there he made his third eagle of the week which was followed two holes later by a birdie on 15 before back to back birdies on 1 and 2 got him to 6-under par for the tournament.
But in line with his play for the week, any momentum was soon stopped in its tracks with bogeys on the par-3 4th and par-3 6th stifling a late charge through the field. Another birdie on the 8th helped put some spring in his step and when questioned on how he felt the week had been post-round, McIlroy did his best to conceal his disappointment whilst looking ahead to a busy summer’s golf.
“I think you learn more from these weeks than you do the other weeks. You’ve got some time to reflect out there and maybe think about where you could have done things maybe slightly differently, I guess.
“I’ve got two weeks off now which I’m looking forward to. And looking forward to regrouping. And there’s still so much good golf left this year, three Major championships and all of that sort of stuff, big events. I’ll move on from this pretty quickly and just get ready for the next few months.”
McIlroy’s woes were mostly on the famously difficult par-4’s where he was cumulatively 7-over for the week as opposed to his 11-under par tally for the par-5’s. Ultimately, the birdies were there but McIlroy identified his performance on the par-4’s as an obvious area of frustration on a week that fell well short of expectation.
“My game is still there,” he insisted. “I hit a few loose shots and cost myself a few too many bogeys. And that was really it. I think I played the par‑5’s in 11‑under for the week. I must have played the par‑3’s in about even or even a bit under par. So, it was really the par‑4’s. And that’s just putting myself out of position off the tee. And then once you get yourself out of position it’s very hard to put yourself back in position. You miss greens, trying to get it up and down, you put pressure on yourself.
“So, my driving accuracy wasn’t quite as good this week as it has been the last few weeks. And that was probably the main reason why I didn’t contend this week.”
Given the form McIlroy showed coming in to the tournament and the expectation level that he must have had for himself, he’d be forgiven for being disappointed but facing the media despite all that, he maintained a composed look about him that should bode well for the coming weeks.
“Honestly I’m ok. It seems like you guys are more disappointed than I am. I’m good. I’ll go home and I’ll get ready for Charlotte in a couple of weeks’ time and get ready for that and then obviously the PGA at Bethpage. And that’s a busy run and a busy summer of golf. And hopefully get myself and get my game in the right place for all those events.”
As so the hunt for the career slam rolls on to 2020 and what might McIlroy do differently in the lead up to the Masters to help him conquer his Everest?
“I might play the week before. I was talking to my dad on the way here this morning, saying I might play the week before. If anything, I just wasn’t quite as sharp as I have been in previous weeks. I played quite a bit leading up to this, but obviously took the week off last week. It’s not that I didn’t play or practice, and I was trying to get myself ready, but I think I realised over the past couple of years the best way for me personally to get ready for tournaments is play the week before, usually.
“I’d probably play Match Play, maybe San Antonio and here. Three in a row has actually been okay for me at times. But that’s next year, so who knows.”