Comment: Masters blip is no cause for concern - Rory McIlroy will be back
With his parting words at Augusta on Sunday afternoon, Rory McIlroy stared wistfully at the leaderboard by the 18th fairway.
"My neck’s actually a bit sore looking at all the leaderboards," he quipped, before channeling his inner Mystic Meg by adding: "It's going to be interesting the final two holes."
Whether he thought it would get quite as interesting as it did is questionable. But even with the finish we did get at Augusta, one of the most memorable stretches to a Major in recent memory, there was something missing right at the very end.
By the time he was finished his round, and likely plotting his way home rather than his way around the course, Woods and Molinari were only at the 12th. At the very least, McIlroy would have been hoping he was in their vicinity if not the third man in their three-ball.
Instead, by 1pm eastern time he had finished his media duties. Not ideal.
McIlroy himself was insistent that his game isn't far away, and that's not hard to believe given that he made 13 birdies and four eagles across the week, which was good for a combined score of 21-under par.
Had he dropped seven shots or less, McIlroy would have won the tournament and completed the Grand Slam.
Instead, he dropped 16 and finished 21st.
As incredible as that ending was, how great would it have been to see Woods and McIlroy dueling it out down the stretch at Augusta? One going for the improbable comeback, the other vying to win that elusive Green Jacket and end all those questions about whether he'll actually do it - it would have been epic.
And at the end of the day, McIlroy at the business end of any Major makes it a better tournament, whether he's competing against Woods or not. The patrons flock to him, they cheer him on from all walks of life. He's a marketable player, and every tournament official wants him to be in the latter groups on a Sunday afternoon, bar none.
So is his inability to be in the mix at the weekend at Augusta a troubling sign going forward, both for himself and Major officials?
At the end of the day, probably not. After his start to the season, his form isn't the problem, and the Holywood man admitted himself that he perhaps came in undercooked after not playing the week before. Learnings have already been taken from this disappointment, which is all you can ask for.
So the USGA and R&A can rest assured, McIlroy will be back. Bethpage comes first for the PGA Championship next month, then there's the small matter of being the local favourite at Portrush, and you can bet he'll be up for that.
Hopefully by then he'll be the one making it interesting around the Dunluce.
Belfast Telegraph Digital