I will learn from Masters woe, vows Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy may find it hard to forget his Masters meltdown, but he was still able to find perspective through the emotional turmoil that saw him throw away the chance to become a major champion.
While new champion Charl Schwartzel was all smiles after his sensational success at Augusta National, the 21-year-old from Holywood was left wondering what might have been after shooting 80 in his final round.
McIlroy had entered the last 18 holes four shots ahead.
By the time the 2011 Masters was over, he was TEN shots behind winner Schwartzel, who finished on 14 under par.
The two stablemates, both managed by Chubby Chandler, one overjoyed after the best round of his life and the other at a loss to fully explain his worst-ever day in the sport, were due to travel together today across the world to the Malaysian Open.
Schwartzel shot a simply brilliant 66, which included a dramatic start and four closing birdies, giving the 26-year-old South African his first major title by two shots from Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day.
It was an amazing finish to an extraordinary final day, which looked at one stage as though it would end with a remarkable triumph for Tiger Woods, who started out seven shots behind McIlroy.
Woods, after a 67, eventually finished four shots adrift of the winner.
Rory, of course, who had played so supremely in the opening three rounds, seemed set to follow up fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell’s outstanding success in the US Open last year with victory in the Masters.
He will have to wait for a green jacket though after crashing from first to joint 15th place with a nightmare 80.
“I was still one shot ahead going into the 10th and then things went all pear-shaped after that,” said the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland, who had hoped to become the second youngest winner in Masters history.
Pear-shaped is putting it mildly. He triple-bogeyed the 10th, three-putted the 11th, four-putted the 12th and bogeyed the long 15th to become the third 54-hole leader in the last four majors — Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney were the others — to fail to break 80.
But while Johnson and Watney actually scored worse McIlroy's advantage when he teed off was the biggest and the last time anyone lost a bigger last day lead in a major was Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999.
And by suffering such a reversal in fortunes the world number nine had even done worse than Greg Norman at Augusta in 1996. With a 78 Norman went from six clear to five behind Nick Faldo.
The Great White Shark never did win another major — thankfully he had two Opens to his name by then — but McIlroy does at least have time on his side.
“It was a very disappointing day obviously.” he said.
“But hopefully I'll learn from it and come back a little stronger.
“Hopefully if I can get myself back into this position pretty soon I will handle it a little bit better.”
McIlroy pinpointed his triple bogey at the 10th as the moment his first major championship started slipping away. From there his putting failed.
“At 11 and 12, I hit good shots but it went to pieces on the greens after that,” said McIlroy after his round.
“When I woke up this morning I felt I could win the Masters.
“I knew it was going to be very tough for me out there and it was. But I had a good nine hours sleep last night, I wasn’t nervous and I felt good all day. But I have just shot 80. It wasn’t the first time I did it and it won’t be the last.”
To his credit McIlroy wasn’t feeling sorry for himself.
He added: “It will be pretty tough for me for the next few days, but I will get over it — I will be fine.
“There are a lot worse things that can happen in your life. Shooting a bad score in the last round of a golf tournament is nothing in comparison to what other people go through.
“Getting applauded up onto the greens, I was almost a little embarrassed at some points.
“But the support I had here was fantastic and I really appreciate it.
“I can't really put my finger on what went wrong. I lost a lot of confidence with my putting, but I just hit a poor tee shot on 10 and sort of unravelled from there.
“I'll have plenty more chances I know and hopefully it will build a bit of character in me as well,” added McIlroy who graciously congratulated the winner.
“Charl is a great golfer and an every better guy. I’m pleased for him and his family.”