Rory McIlroy left another Masters Tournament with another lesson learned.
The 26-year-old has been through the grind of contending at Augusta National Golf Club on several occasions, and once again he has come away thinking of what could have been.
After a disappointing third-round 77 in the final pairing Saturday, McIlroy carded 1-under-par 71 in the final round Sunday to finish 1-over in a tie for 10th.
McIlroy was just a shot back of the lead entering the third round after shooting 70-71 over the first two days. While playing with Jordan Spieth in the feature pairing Saturday, his struggles drew memories of his final-round 80 in 2011.
He entered Sunday five shots off the lead in need of a charge, but six bogeys prevented him from making a run.
“I just didn’t play the golf I needed to when it really mattered,” McIlroy said. “That’s the thing that I take away not just from this week, but from previous Masters. I’ve been in position before and I haven’t got the job done when I needed to.”
McIlroy combated the cluster of bogeys with seven birdies, including three in a row between the 13th and 15th holes to get to 1-over. But an even-par 36 on the front nine left him too far back with too few holes to go.
With his name near the top of the leaderboard Saturday, McIlroy said he played too defensively and tried to avoid mistakes rather than play for birdies. He chalked up his Masters struggles to his mental game.
Despite the disappointment, he posted his third top-10 finish in a row.
“Once I overcome that mental hurdle that I’m struggling with at the minute, then I know how to play this course,” he said. “I’ve played this course very well before, and I can string good rounds together here, but it’s just a matter of doing it.”