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The Masters: 45 mad minutes that cost Rory McIlroy millions

By Peter Hutcheon

Forty-five minutes of madness cost Rory McIlroy millions in his final round collapse at the Masters on Sunday.

Leading the first Major of the year standing on the 10th tee, by the time he trudged off the 12th a calamitous three-quarters of an hour later, he had dropped six shots and totally blown his chance of victory.

In prize money alone, McIlroy lost over £800,000 by finishing in a tie for 15th rather than winning as Charl Schwartzel took home £890,000 compared to McIlroy's £80,000.

But he misses out in millions more in terms of the lucrative endorsements which flow from becoming a Major champion and he also missed a chance to go shooting back up the world rankings.

He remains at number nine while the South African winner rocketed up 18 places from 29 to 11 on the back of his victory. But McIlroy's fellow professionals were quick to rally round after his Augusta nightmare and most agreed that his meltdown wouldn't have a lasting impact on his chances of winning Majors in the future.

Fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell admitted it will be tough for McIlroy to get over the experience, but insisted his young Ryder Cup winning team-mate is too good a player not to bounce back eventually.

At just 21, McIlroy still possesses the potential earning power to become Northern Ireland’s biggest sporting money-maker, eclipsing US Open champion McDowell and former F1 star Eddie Irvine.

“It's going to feel like the end of the world right now,” McDowell said, “but this will be a huge learning experience for Rory.

“You can't believe how good a player he is and he will win multiple Majors. This is simply a blip on the radar.”

England’s Ian Poulter agreed the young Holywood star would become an even better player after his harrowing Augusta experience.

“Trust me, Rory will be back in full force quicker than ever,” he said.

“It will be hard to take but it will make him stronger.”

McIlroy's manager Andrew Chandler, who also looks after Schwartzel and Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, pointed out: “What people seem to forget is that

Rory is only 21. If he was American, he would still be in college and here we all are thinking he should have won the Masters. He is number nine in the world, and here we all are thinking he is an underachiever. It's daft.”

Luke Donald, who finished in a tie for fourth, said his heart went out to his Ryder Cup pal when he saw the scoreboards around the course charting his downfall.

“When I saw he made triple at 10 and backed it up with a couple more tough holes on 11 and 12, I was gutted for him,” Donald said.

Mac’s Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie added that the experience will stand to Rory in future pressure cooker tournament situations.

“He will have learnt from this experience,” he said.

“The next time he is in this position — and it's a matter of when and not if — he will pull through.”

Great White Shark Greg Norman (left) understands the pressure of a final day at Augusta better than most after his spectacular collapse there in 1996. He admitted McIlroy's performance on Sunday brought back some unhappy memories.

“I knew exactly how he felt,” said Aussie Norman.

“What is it with golf destiny? Isn't it strange? It taps you on the back of your head and it either pushes you ahead or pushes you back. Who determines that? It's crazy.”

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