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Rory McIlroy will alter plans for 2020 Masters as wait for Grand Slam goes on

Contemplating: Rory McIlroy and caddie Harry Diamond wait to play on
the 14th hole at Augusta yesterday
Contemplating: Rory McIlroy and caddie Harry Diamond wait to play on the 14th hole at Augusta yesterday
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Long before Tiger holed that winning putt, Rory McIlroy quietly holed out for a four-under par round to finish his 2019 Masters challenge and leave the Grand Slam up in the air for another year.

As the vast majority of the patrons at Augusta filed past the ninth green - where McIlroy was finishing due to his low starting position and the two-tee start - towards where the top-of-the-standings action was going on, the irony wasn't lost on McIlroy, even if he admitted he wasn't too disappointed.

"I didn't mind it, it was nice and quiet!" he laughed after he had signed for a round of 68.

At five-under par, he finished eight shots off Woods and left Augusta with his worst finish of the season so far, a still very respectable tied 21st at the first Major of the year.

That in itself proves just what a phenomenal season it has been for him up to this point, with this his worst result by some 12 places and his first finish outside of the top 10 since last November.

He finished with a round that, had it come on Thursday, might have seen him carry enough momentum forward that it would have been a different tournament altogether.

Starting at 10, he rattled off three pars before firing his second at the par-five 13th to just 11 feet and rolling in the putt.

He birdied the 15th after finding the green in two again, which was backed up by pars to the turn to have him three-under for the back nine.

As has been the case all week, the front nine proved a bit trickier for the World No.3, despite picking up a shot at the first, which he gave back with a bogey at the par-three fourth when he failed to get up-and-down from right of the green.

The other par-three on the front nine, the sixth, also caused him to drop a shot after overshooting the green with his tee shot, but McIlroy did at least ensure he'd finish strongly with a birdie at the eighth.

"My game is still there," the 29-year-old insisted. "I hit a few loose shots and cost myself a few too many bogeys and that was really it.

"I think I played the par fives in 11-under for the week. I must have played the par threes in about even or even a bit under par. It was really the par fours, and that's just putting myself out of position off the tee.

"My driving accuracy wasn't quite as good this week as it has been the last few weeks. And that was probably the main reason why I didn't contend this week."

With 13 birdies across the four rounds and another four eagles, he wasn't short of good scores out there, but at the same time the number of dropped shots were too high to make an impact.

On the whole, McIlroy made 16 bogeys on the week, both by a combination of poor luck and some errors, and that was where the tournament got away from him. As at the end of all tournaments where he doesn't win, the post-mortem begins for McIlroy as to what he may do differently next year.

That undeniable question of can he complete the Grand Slam still hangs over him like a spectre, and will rear its head again in 12 months.

As for McIlroy himself, he already has a plan for next year.

"I might play the week before (next year's Masters). If anything I just wasn't quite as sharp as I have been in previous weeks," he revealed.

"I played quite a bit leading up to this, but obviously took the week off last week. It's not that I didn't play or practice, and I was trying to get myself ready, but I think I realised over the past couple of years the best way for me personally to get ready for tournaments is play the week before, usually."

But despite not being among the final groupings, or even teeing off his final round on the first hole, McIlroy wouldn't call it a wasted week.

"I think you learn more from these weeks than you do the other weeks," he argued.

"You've got some time to reflect out there and maybe think about where you could have done things maybe slightly differently, I guess.

"But I've got two weeks off now which I'm looking forward to, and looking forward to regrouping.

"There's still so much good golf left this year, three Major championships and big events. I'll move on from this quickly."

Belfast Telegraph

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