Five minutes that’s how long Padraig Harrington was concerned for Rory McIlroy after his young Ryder Cup team-mate suffered one of the biggest implosions in Major Championship history.
Then 21-year-old McIlroy allayed all of Harrington’s fears with his post-round response to Sunday’s heart-rending events at The Masters as he gave an amazing TV interview moments after sinking his final putt.
Indeed, the Dubliner insists McIlroy will benefit a lot more from the nightmarish final round 80 at Augusta National than Tiger Woods will from the closing 67 which lifted the four-times Masters champion into a tie for fourth for the second year in a row.
McIlroy’s hopes of victory were blown to bits after a calamitous treble-bogey seven at 10 was followed in quick succession by a bogey at 11; a double at 12 and another pulled drive into Rae’s Creek at 13.
“I've had days that feel like that, but maybe not of the same magnitude,” admitted Harrington (pictured right), who watched the final round on TV at home after missing the cut.
“Yet Rory did incredibly well afterwards. In a week’s time, he’ll have had time to reflect, but his attitude so soon after walking off the 18th green on Sunday was fantastic and augurs well for his future.
“He’ll come through this. Rory has proved many times he’s capable of winning these things, but I think even more so after Sunday. He’ll win plenty of Majors going forward.”
Conversely, he’s convinced Tiger left Augusta frustrated.
Woods forced himself into contention by going five-under on the front nine, but then he stalled badly, even missing putts from inside four feet at the 12th and 15 holes, something the rampaging Tiger of old never did.
“He’s always going to have a great chance at Augusta and he had it again. If he looks back at this week, Tiger will think see this as one that got away,” said Harrington, though he doesn’t necessarily blame the putter.
“Rather than putting so badly he didn't have a good week in terms of luck. It looked like a it was more a case of good putts not going in (than bad misses). Yet that’s not going to be a consolation for him.”
Leading pillar to post at The Masters is one of the most difficult feats in golf, Harrington said.
“It’s far harder to maintain a lead on a golf course where birdies are being made than on one where pars are at a premium — much, much harder,” he explained, pointing out that winner Charl Schwartzel had eliminated McIlroy’s four stokes lead with a chip-in birdie and a pitch-in eagle on the first three holes.
“Augusta is by far the toughest course to have a lead on. A guy playing well can make birdies and eagles and someone can make double-bogey with an errant shot. So it’s probably the best place in the world to be attacking on.”
“It wasn't Rory’s day, but his attitude was brilliant,” Harrington went on. “Everybody was feeling for him on Sunday, but the things he said in his interview afterwards were spot-on and I felt a lot better about it because of it.
“Bottom line, Rory learned a lot more than anyone else on Sunday, even the winner,” he continued, saying he wasn’t especially concerned about McIlroy’s putting.
“Rory knows his own game, he works diligently at it and I’m sure he’ll continue to do that.
“It was very impressive up until the start of the last round. He hadn't had a three putt in three rounds and will take confidence from that fact on a tough golf course like Augusta.
“Yeah, okay, it came back on him in the last round, but he got 54 holes out of it, well 63 holes, and he only needs to extend it another nine holes. That won't be long coming.”
McIlroy, Schwartzel and Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen connected with a flight to this week's Malaysian Open in London yesterday afternoon and was scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur today at lunch, local time. Harrington, meanwhile, plays next week's Volvo China Open.