IT WASN’T to be on this occasion for Rory McIlroy in his bid to become just the sixth player to complete golf’s career Grand Slam.
He can return to Augusta National time and time again in years to come, though, feeling confident that the feat can be achieved one day.
“I am getting better and better each time I play this golf course”Rory McIlroy
Given the pressure he was under to join Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods in the annals of golf’s history, fourth on his own was a praiseworthy effort by the 25-year-old, especially after he headed into the back nine on Friday battling to make the cut. Like everyone else in the field, he really found himself playing for second place after Jordan Spieth had burst out of the blocks and maintained his imperious golf right to the bitter death.
McIlroy had talked on the eve of the tournament about how he needed to play the par-5s better, having been level-par for those 12 months earlier compared to eight-under by the winner, Bubba Watson. This time around McIlroy was a cumulative 14-under for those holes. Bit by bit, he is getting there when it comes to playing Augusta National. He knows it and, therefore, is entitled to feel confident that his time will come to be the player having a Green Jacket slipped over his shoulders in the Butler Cabin.
“I wish I would have finished off a little bit better, but I’m very happy with how I played over the last couple of days,” said the world No 1. “For the last 45 holes I was 15-under par and that’s comforting. I just left myself with a bit too much to do after 27 holes of this tournament and that’s what really cost me.
“The good thing is that I am getting better and better each time I play this golf course. I set a target of playing the par 5s in 12-under par and I managed to do better than that this week. If you had given me 12-under par for the week I would have taken that, but a few guys, especially Jordan, played really, really good golf.”
McIlroy’s next outing will be the WGC-Cadillac Match Play at the end of this month in San Francisco. He will then start turning his attention to the US Open at Chambers Bay before the build-up starts to his Claret Jug defence in the Open Championship at St Andrews.
“I have a whole lot of golf to play this year,” he said, probably feeling a touch of relief that a weight of expectation has been lifted from his shoulders for the next 12 months in terms of this event.
“I still have three more majors to contest and I am really happy where my game is at. I feel like I am at a place where I can win a lot of golf tournaments from now till the end of the year.”
Before St Andrews, McIlroy, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson are all expected to lock horns again in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane. Rose, of course, is the defending champion, while McIlroy and Mickelson have both used the event in recent years as the perfect preparation to become Open winners the following week.
“I’m really excited about the rest of the year now,” admitted Rose. “It’s a good momentum starter for me. I tried to really tell myself that this year for me is going to be about April to September when the big tournaments come around and that’s when I want to play well.
“You look at Rory’s year last year, it was all about how he played in the summer and I’m very happy it [his form] turned around this week in a major championship.”