Rory McIlroy spoilt a double 30th birthday and third victory celebration in starring in yet another Sunday horror show, this time at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte.
There was no cork-popping champers, no birthday cheers though there were no doubt plenty of calls for pain-killers with McIlroy producing yet another hard-to- watch display in a final round.
“Yeah, a bit of a stop-start weekend. Finished well yesterday to give myself a chance going into today. Played the first six holes well today, sort of pretty steady, what you need to do. Could have made a couple there,” he said.
A suspension to play at 5.10pm (Local time) momentarily halted the hurt with Mcllroy finding a greenside bunker at the par-5 15th and at the time slipping back to a share of 12th place at six-under par.
Mcllroy, in his final event ahead of next week’s second major of the season, headed to the security of the clubhouse trailing nine shots behind American Max Homa, with the 28-year old Californian on track for a maiden Tour title in leading the field by three shots with five holes to play.
Homa emerged after just over an hour’s delay to hold on to win by three shots with a final round 67 for a 15-under par tally.
To give some perspective, two years ago, Homa earned just $18,008 from his 17 starts in a season where he was 61-over par. Now he’s headed home with a whopping $1.4m prize cheque.
Nine years ago McIlroy, two days prior to his 21st birthday, posted an eagle and 17 birdies over the weekend in shooting scores of 66 and 62 to win a first PGA Tour title by four shots.
Now in turning 30 on Saturday and combined with his final round shocker, McIlroy managed just six birdies over the last two days but sadly also posted three bogeys and a double.
There had been a chorus on ‘Happy Birthday’ on Saturday for McIlroy on the first tee but heading into his closing nine, and the sprint to the Euro 1.16m first prize cheque, his round was turning into a wake.
McIlroy’s final round never really got out of first gear and he commented; “The three-putt on 7 sort of derailed any sort of momentum that I had. Ended up birdieing the eighth hole and then 9 and 10 was basically my own doing. I think of the — of my play over the last few days; if anything, I hit a couple drives left over the weekend, but then my short game sort of just cost me a few shots. So go back home this week, work on that a little bit and get a little bit sharper in those areas and get ready for a couple weeks’ time.”
He pared his opening eight holes, including three-putting the par-5 seventh from 21-feet but the writing was very clearly on the wall when he bogeyed the ninth hole in three-putting from around 50-feet.
And if there was one hole to epitomise McIlroy’s anguish on the day it was the par-5 10th hole where he had been three-under for the week with three prior birdies.
His second shot rolled-up close to pin-high right just 48-feet from the flag but McIlroy made a mess of his chip shot and it failed to clear the slope on the edge of the green, with his ball rolling back down to still be well shy of the ‘dance floor’.
Inexplicably, he did the same again with his fourth before two-putting from six-feet for a double-bogey ‘7’ and his second double for the week which sent McIlroy outside the top-10 and into a then share of 12th.
It was not until the par-3 13h that McIlroy finally turned on the brilliance switch, landing his tee shot to just three-feet for a first birdie since the 15th on Saturday.
Though the horror show continued with McIlroy sending his tee-shot at 14 into the water for the second bogey of his round and now a distant nine shots off the lead.
For a second straight tournament, and after his lowly T21st Augusta finish, the four-time Major winner again has plenty of soul-searching ahead of the years’ second major starting May 16that Bethpage Park outside of New York.
And if there is any comfort for McIlroy, he returns to the famed ‘Black Course’ at Bethpage Park having captured the 2012 Barclays Championship there in his first appearance at the public golf course.
West Waterford’s Seamus Power got another good result but finished with a sour taste in his mouth after taking a double-bogey on the 18th, his second double on the hole after doubling it on day one.
Power looked certain to lock-in a third top-10 in as many weeks, moving to eighth place at eight under par, with Power one-under for his round when play was halted after he had driven-off the 16th.
Power had earlier produced a poor outward nine with a fifth hole birdie sandwiched among bogeys at the second, fourth and ninth holes
However, Power got back in the overtaking lane heading into the closing nine with birdies at 10 and 11 before dropping a shot at 12 but clearly making amends with birdies on 13 and 14.
Power then hit a McIlroy-like 331-yard drive down the 16th for par and then pared 17 only to find the water down the left side of the 18th and walking off with a ‘6’ in a round of 72 to drop back to a share of 13th at six-under.