Rory McIlroy’s strong Masters finish held back by Thursday struggles
Another Masters has come and gone, and Rory McIlroy’s quest to complete the career Grand Slam lingers on.
For a brief moment on the first nine Sunday, after he birdied the eighth hole to improve to 11 under and climb within four strokes of Dustin Johnson, McIlroy thought there was a glimmer of hope that he could achieve a comeback for the ages.
“But then the wind sort of got up as we hit the turn, and it just was hard to make birdies,” McIlroy said. “Dustin is just playing such solid golf. It was probably wishful thinking on my part.”
McIlroy, 31, rebounded from a poor first round to shoot 3-under 69 on Sunday and finish with a 72-hole score of 11-under 277. That was good for a share of fifth place with Dylan Frittelli, and McIlroy’s third career top-five finish at the Masters.
When McIlroy assesses what went wrong in his sixth attempt to complete the career Grand Slam, he’s going to remember the tee shot he hooked into the woods at No. 13 that led to bogey and pulling his tee shot into the water at the par-3 16th on Friday morning. His swing looked out of sorts and it appeared that McIlroy might be headed for a short stay at Augusta.
“I just got a little careful, a little tentative, a little ‘guidey,’ just didn’t trust my swing, didn’t commit to what I was doing, and again, this course more than any other can make you do that at times,” he said. “That was really what it was.”
McIlroy showed some of the grit he talked about in his pre-tournament interview, shooting a bogey-free 66 in the second round to make the cut and rallied to sniff contention, but ultimately dug himself too big of a hole to overcome.
“I guess I need to take the positives, and played the last 54 really well and only made two bogeys in that 54-hole stretch, which is probably the best run of golf I’ve played here,” he said.
McIlroy’s winless drought in majors stretches to 22 since winning the 2014 PGA Championship. He only has to wait five months for his next shot at Augusta National.
“I hope the course is much different in April than it is now. It’s very soft,” McIlroy said. “I feel like there’s a lot of shots I hit this week where I hit my number and it would spin back off a green or it just wouldn’t do what you expect it to do, so I’d love to get another shot at it in April and have the course play maybe more what we’re accustomed to.”
What does McIlroy think he needs to do in order to slip on the green jacket as Masters champion? He said he’s going to need to polish his iron game.
“It goes from wedges all the way through to the long irons,” he said. “I had two 5 irons from the fairway on 10 and 11 today, for example, and just didn’t hit great shots. There’s always stuff to work on, but definitely something to work on going into the offseason that we have here, and try to come out a little better in 2021.”
McIlroy previously had said that he planned to take an extended break following the Masters that likely will last until the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in February.
“I’m just going to be a man of leisure for a couple months,” he said. “It’s going to be nice. Lie by the pool a little bit, get back on the bike, get back on the Peloton. I’ve sort of given that a bit of a miss over the last few months. Yeah, just some stuff. Obviously, watch my daughter grow up a little bit and have fun with that.”
And likely replay his miserable start at the 84th Masters and draft a game plan for success in April.