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Rory signs off for a one-week break after suffering bogey blues

By Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy's Jekyll and Hyde start to the season continued when he got caught in the Bear Trap again and racked up a late quadruple-bogey seven in the Honda Classic.

After shooting an up-and-down, three-over 73 on Saturday - playing his first eight holes in six over and the last ten in three-under - he shot 73 against yesterday, finishing on nine-over for the week as the par-three 17th claimed his pride.

The world No 10 made a triple bogey six at the terrifying, 190-yard par-three in a 72 on Friday before going one shot worse when the tee was up 20 yards yesterday.

Even when cruising along at two-under for the day after some excellent play, he ballooned his tee shot into the lake on the right, exclaiming, 'Oh, Rory!' as he put his hands on his head, then repeated the mistake from the drop zone before finally finding dry land at the third attempt.

It was an anticlimactic end to the round for the Holywood man (28), who bogeyed the first and 12th after bunkering tee shots but holed putts of 12, 27, 19 and 38 feet for birdies at the third, fifth, 13th and 15th.

On a day when Shane Lowry made six birdies in a morale-boosting 67 to finish on seven-over par, McIlroy's hit-and-miss performance at PGA National will force him to believe the glass is half full rather than half empty.

He takes a week off now to reflect on his run of five tournaments in six weeks, but while he can be pleased with his improvement on the greens in Palm Beach Gardens, he will be less than thrilled with the start of his US season.

After shooting 40-under for eight rounds in the Middle Least, finishing third in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and second in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic respectively, he's six-over for the 11 rounds he's played on the PGA Tour so far, breaking par in just three of them.

As England's Tommy Fleetwood said of playing the tough US courses, "whether you play really good or you play really bad, it's such a good judgment of where you are".

Mentally fraught at times, he doesn't need to be told that his wedge play still needs work. Crucially, he also hit just 50 percent of his fairways in Florida, and only five yesterday.

He's ranked second on tour this year in the 175 to 200-yard range but 37th between 50 and 125 yards.

His Masters preparations will continue at the Valspar Championship in less than a fortnight as he skips this week's WGC-Mexico Championship, which will also be without Lowry, who needed to win the Honda Classic to qualify.

With just one top-10 finish in 25 US starts since he was tied second in the 2016 US Open, world No 73 Lowry now has just five weeks to win in the US or make the world's top 50 if he's to make a fourth successive Masters start.

On the European Tour, England's Eddie Pepperell survived a late scare from pal Oliver Fisher to claim his maiden victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, moving into the world's top 100.

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