David Duval, the 2001 Open champion, hit the nail on the head when it came to summing up Rory McIlroy failing at the fourth attempt to complete that career Grand Slam.
“This is going to be a tough one for Rory to handle,” said the American, “and it’s going to keep stacking on as the years go by as he doesn’t win the Masters, and there is no one to say he will for sure.”
Compared to 2011, when he closed with an 80 in squandering a four-shot lead, this disappointment at Augusta National will be mild for the 28-year-old. Even though he trailed Patrick Reed by three shots heading into the final round, it was all going according to plan for McIlroy. He’d done little wrong over the opening 54 holes, admittedly helped by a handful of fortunate breaks in the second round.
Unfortunately for him, the last day wasn’t what the doctored ordered. TV analyst Brandel Chamblee described McIlroy’s opening blow as “the worst tee shot in the final group of a major that I’ve ever seen and probably will ever see”. It went miles right and McIlroy went on to have an off day with the driver.
When he was unable to convert a great eagle chance at the second, it was the first time in 36 attempts during the week that he’d missed from five feet or closer. That, though, was the catalyst for the Northern Irishman’s putting to let him down when he really needed it, especially on a day when Reed was knocking them in.
McIlroy, pictured, was out of contention by the time the final pairing reached Amen Corner. From the middle of the fairway at the tough 11th, he missed the green. You could sense that those rooting for him outside the ropes knew his chance to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods had gone.
In closing with a 74, he was the only the only player in the top 16 not to break par on the last day. He’s now finished fourth, 10th, seventh and fifth since he set up that opportunity. Based on that record and also the fact he actually got himself in contention this time, it seems unthinkable that he won’t eventually win here. That chance to create some history, though, appears to be weighing heavily on his shoulders.
“I was surprised and I expected a lot more from Rory,” Duval told the Golf Channel. “It goes to show that nobody is exempt from the pressures and the crunch of trying to win major championships let alone complete the career Grand Slam. You could definitely see that there was a ‘hold on’ in his swing. There was ‘hold on’ also in his putting stroke and the free flowingness that he had down at Bay Hill (winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational) and that he had for the first three days at Augusta was a little tighter.
“You expect that but I expected a lot more than he showed us. Just eight greens in regulation over the final round will never get it done. Rory just needs to sharpen things up. We all believe Rory will win the Grand Slam and I believe he can play this golf course, and I believe he will one day win on this course.”