Rory McIlroy said a phenomenal farewell to Augusta National yesterday, landing six birdies in a sensational final 10-hole stretch which hinted this kid one day will wear the coveted Green Jacket.
“It was a great way to end the week,” said McIlroy after signing for a final round 70 in which he played the back nine at Augusta in 31 strokes.
“I didn’t get off to the best of starts today,” added the Holywood youngster, who was four over through seven holes of his final round.
“Overall, I probably didn’t play as well as I’d have wanted but it’s still a pretty respectable finish. It’s been a memorable week,” said McIlroy, who played the final 36 holes in three-under to clinch a respectable finishing place in the mid-twenties on two-under par.
So taken was McIlroy by the tidal waves of excitement sent coursing around the golf course by Phil Mickelson’s charge, he joked he might go straight out and follow Lefty and the Tiger around the back nine.
Yet wiser counsel prevailed.
“Nah, I’ll probably just go and watch on TV but it looks like it’s going to be a very exciting afternoon.”
Looking to his own performance, he went on: “It’s been a pretty good first Masters for me but, hopefully, I can do better in the three remaining masters this year.”
Asked what he had learned from his first Masters experience, McIlroy said: “I don’t know, I’ve just learned so much about the course, I’ll be looking forward to getting back next year.
“I’ve certainly learned not to dance in the bunker!
“If I could have finished differently on Friday, I’d still be out there,” added Rory, whose steady progress up the Augusta leaderboard shuddered to a halt when he four-putted 16 for a double-bogey that evening and then stumbled to a controversial triple-bogey at the last.
Arising out an incident in the greenside bunker on that final hole, McIlroy and Sir Alex Ferguson have more in common than their devotion to Manchester United.
They also have a beef with the BBC, though the golfer, will never go as far as Fergie and refuse to speak to the broadcaster, despite the severest provocation last Friday.
Sir Alex actually sent a goodwill message to United fan McIlroy via the Holywood youngster’s manager, Chubby Chandler, last Thursday — even offering him a guided tour of their Old Trafford home when he comes back to the UK after next week’s Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head.
The McIlroy camp were distinctly unhappy with the BBC’s coverage of the incident in a greenside bunker at 18, when pundit Sam Torrance suggested he should be disqualified for ‘kicking’ the sand after failing to get out of that trap with his first attempt.
If one watches the incident without the soundtrack, one inevitably comes to the same conclusion as the three-man Masters Competition Committee — that McIlroy brushed the sand, albeit a little vigorously, with his right foot and therefore was guilty of no transgression under the rules of golf.
The Committee, made up of Mike Davis of the United States Golf Association, Mike Shea of the PGA of America and chaired by former USGA President Fred Ridley, rightly found McIlroy had not tested the ground in the hazard.
Instead, they ruled he had merely smoothed and kicked down the edges of the sand indentations he’d made with his foot, which is perfectly acceptable under the rules of golf as long as it does not help the player with his next stroke from the bunker.
“It’s all part of the learning curve,” said McIlroy, whop went on to suggest that there will be far more to come from him in the future at Augusta National.
“It helps to know the course but I feel if I’d played anywhere near my best this week, I could have contended.”
Graeme McDowell, 29, provided a pretty spectacular finish of his own yesterday, bouncing back from a double-bogey five at the legendary 12th hole with a hat-trick of birdies.
The Portrush star’s final round 69 made him Ireland’s only top-20 finisher and Europe’s best on four-under par.