AUGUSTA, Ga. – “Just one of those days,” Rory McIlroy said.
Yes, yes it was, Rory. And it came at one of the worst possible moments.
McIlroy was paired with Jordan Spieth in Saturday’s final pairing at the Masters. The hype was big. The second- and third-ranked players in the world going head-to-head was just too juicy. McIlroy, 26, looking to complete the career Grand Slam; Spieth, 22 looking to collect his second consecutive green jacket.
It never materialized.
McIlroy was off almost from the beginning of the round. He made three bogeys, a double bogey and shot 77 to end tied for 11th place. McIlroy didn’t make birdie in a round for only the second time at Augusta National and his round snaps a streak of 80 consecutive major rounds with at lead one birdie.
“I didn’t feel like anything was off, but it was just, I was sort of trying to sort of playing upstream,” McIlroy said. “I was always trying to get something going and I just couldn’t. I felt like I righted the ship the last seven holes. I made seven pars coming in and had a lot of chances coming in, but I didn’t take any opportunities.”
McIlroy bogeyed the third hole and bogeyed the seventh when he tried to get too aggressive with a downhill, sliding birdie putt. He rolled that 7 feet by the hole and missed the par attempt. A big hook into the left trees off the tee was the culprit on the 10th hole (remember him here in 2011?) and he made bogey there, too. He hit a wayward drive on the 11th tee, as well, and tried to hook an approach into the green. But he hooked it too much and the ball found water. The result was double bogey.
Truth be told, though, Spieth bailed McIlroy out a bit. The Texan outplayed the Northern Irishman all day. Spieth grinded over every shot and was amazingly efficient for the first 16 holes. McIlroy seemed to record bogey at just the wrong times and never gained momentum.
Spieth led McIlroy by eight shots (eight!) standing on the 16th tee. McIlroy was so far off the grid that television cameras stopped showing him for close to an hour. But Spieth closed with a bogey and a double bogey and McIlroy is only five shots behind.
“I’m only five off the lead and even though I can’t take many positives from today, I have to stay positive that I am only five back and I know what can happen on this golf course on a Sunday,” McIlroy said. “I think anyone within five or six of the lead feels like they still have a good shot.”
That may be true. But McIlroy cost himself a better shot on Saturday.