The career Grand Slam will have to wait at least another year for Rory McIlroy.
Entering Sunday's final round of the Masters in solid position to add the missing piece to his major resume, McIlroy instead suffered another major letdown.
A balky putter plagued McIlroy throughout his round and his highly anticipated duel with third-round leader Patrick Reed never materialized. McIlroy scuffed his way to a 2-over 74, finishing tied for fifth at 9-under 279, while Reed held strong and won his first major at 15-under 273.
"I just didn't have it today," McIlroy said. "I played some great golf yesterday and I just didn't continue that into today."
In firing a third-round 65 to get to 11 under and three shots off Reed's lead going into the final round, McIlroy admitted he'd benefited from a little luck. He also benefited Saturday from a hot putter that saw him need just 23 putts on Augusta National's tricky greens.
On Sunday, the putter let him down early and often. He finished his round with 30 putts and many of the misses came from 10 feet and in, leading to his worst final-round score since 2012.
McIlroy got an early indication how the day would go on No. 2. After scrambling for a par on No. 1, McIlroy stuck his second shot to four feet on the par-5 No. 2, setting up a great look for eagle.
Instead, his putt slid by and though he still made birdie, it just felt like a big opportunity lost.
Yet McIlroy pointed to the next three holes as the turning point. He made bogey on No. 3, missing a 10-footer for par. After hitting to three feet for birdie on No. 4, he missed an eight-foot par putt on No. 5, each bogey erasing the ground he'd gained on Reed.
"The putt on two, I still made birdie and after where I was off the tee on one, I would've taken 1 under through two," McIlroy said. "It was more giving that birdie back straight away on three. The birdie on four was huge and then gave it straight back on five. It was like every time I took a step forward, I took a step back on the next hole. I had a chance to put more pressure on him than I did and if I make pars on three and five I could have."
In all, McIlroy missed seven putts inside 10 feet. And on a day when Reed never got hot enough to really separate himself from the field, they loomed large.
"I just wasn't as trusting as I was the first few days and that made a big difference," McIlroy said. "I was trying to hit good shots and good putts and any time I hit a decent shot, I felt like I left myself on the wrong side of the pin or gave myself a tricky one down the hill. When I did get some opportunities, I didn't take advantage of them."
And with that, another opportunity to win his first Masters title — the only major championship eluding him — slipped away.
"I can't let this derail me too much or get me down," he said. "I played a lot of good golf this week, probably some of the best golf I've played here. It jut wasn't meant to be.
"Of course it's frustrating and it's hard to take any positives from it right now. At least I put myself in position and that's all I wanted to do. The last four years, I've had top 10s, but it hasn't been close enough to the lead. This year, I got myself there and just didn't do enough."
Despite the disappointing outcome, McIlroy remains steadfast in his belief that he can one day win the Masters. His track record at Augusta National would also indicate that one day, he'll don a green jacket.
In 10 Masters appearances, McIlroy has eight top-25 finishes. He's placed in the top 10 each of his last five Masters and in the top five twice.
"I've played in two final groups in the last seven years and have five top 10s," he said. "I play this golf course well. I just haven't played it well enough at the right times."