Rory McIlroy rues missed opportunity
When he looks back on a tied 10th place finish at Royal Portrush, Rory McIlroy won't be too disappointed.
He would have loved to have been in contention coming down the stretch on the final afternoon in the easiest conditions of the week, but was just that little bit too far back for his closing five under round of 67 to make much of a difference.
But he did manage to make that little bit of a charge to give his legions of fans something to cheer.
And he might even have been able to put real pressure on the final group of Jamie Donaldson and Anthony Wall by posting an early low score, but crucial putts around the turn just refused to drop.
He had a brilliant eagle chance on the 10th which just came up fractionally short and then slid a birdie chance just past the hole on the 11th and finished on 11 under par.
“Those two putts could have really got me going and turned the round into something special,” he said.
“But I'm still happy with how I played out there today.
“I struggled with the pace of the greens all week and I didn't hole as many putts as I would have liked.
“But I hit a lot of putts where I wanted to and either they just didn't break or have quite the right speed so I don't think it's anything for me to worry about.”
McIlroy was still three under to the turn of his final round and back-to-back birdies on eight and nine gave the large galleries following him hope that something magical just might emerge on the back nine.
He did tap in for his birdie on 10, but it was a frustrating run for home from then on as he spurned more opportunities to pick up shots and carded seven pars on the trot.
A blistering drive down 17 set him up for a birdie there, but by that time the clubhouse lead was at 14 under.
“I gave myself a chance on virtually every hole out there today and I feel like my game from tee to green was very good this week,” he said.
“So I'm going to take two weeks off now to prepare myself for the Open feeling that my game is in pretty good shape.
“There are some shapes of shot that I feel I still have to work on, but apart from that the rest of the game is sharp and I'm ready to go.”
McIlroy will naturally start as one of the bookies' favourites at Lytham and he will be quietly pleased to have played well in some testing conditions at Portrush.
In that sense, it was the perfect preparation for his assault on a second major championship for the 2011 US Open champion and he will be in much better heart heading there than he was when he made his rather strange remarks last year after Sandwich that he didn't fancy playing in wind and rain.
Playing the majority of his golf in the States these days, he did take a while to find his feet this week which left him too much to do over the weekend to really make an impression on the leaders.
Everywhere he has gone he has been hailed as the conquering hero and he has been touched by the depth of the support he has enjoyed throughout the four days on the north coast.
“It was as incredible as a home tournament as I am ever going to play in,” he said.
“The crowds that came out this week to support the tournament, to support the players, it's been great to be a part of.
“It's great to be able to feel like I did something to help bring this tournament here and I think it has been a huge success.”