After a third unsuccessful attempt to land that missing link, the 27-year-old reckons he might have to return in 12 months’ time with a different ball to the one he used on this occasion. McIlroy had talked about it being “spinny” in the build-up to the event and it was still on his mind after finishing joint-seventh.
“I need to change my golf ball. That’s a big thing,” he said in assessing his performance and giving an in insight about what he perhaps needs to do differently here. “I thought my golf ball this week was doing weird things in the wind. It was very inconsistent, so there’s one thing I will change.”
McIlroy is now behind schedule in his bid to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in that career Grand Slam club. They needed no more than three attempts to get the job done.
Not that the Northern Irishman needs to be reaching for any panic buttons. He’s still got time. He also can’t become too obsessed about this being his only goal. Winning more majors, not just the Masters, will define his career once he’s done and dusted with this game.
“It wasn’t quite as adventurous as previous Masters have been for me,” he said, reflecting on carding rounds of 72-73-71-69 on his ninth appearance in this event. The last four, incidentally, have produced top-ten finishes, so that should be encouragement for future bites at this particular cherry.
“It was quite a consistent, steady Masters for me. It wasn’t quite good enough. I gave a decent account for myself and will come back next year and try again.”
He’s feeling quietly confident about the three other majors this season. “Erin Hills (venue for the US Open in June) is an unknown for everyone,” he said. “But Birkdale is one of the best Open courses on the roster and we are going to Quail Hollow for the PGA and I’ve had success there in the past so nothing but positives ahead I feel, and my game feels in good shape.
“It’s just a matter of working hard and putting myself in position to win. I’ve turned my focus to getting ready for the US Open and trying to add to my major tally there.”
Next up, though, is that wedding, to his American fiancee, Erica Stoll. It is being held in County Mayo in the next week or two. “I am excited,” he said. “It’s a great time in my life and it would have been nice to walk down the aisle in the Green Jacket, if the members would have allowed me.
“It’s a great time in our lives and it’s all about that over the next couple of weeks and I’ll come back at the Players refreshed and a married man and start a new chapter in my life.”