To look at the leaderboard, or not to look at the leaderboard: that is the question.
Rory McIlroy stepped on to the 14th tee thinking he was a shot or two back of the lead and needed to be aggressive with his tee shot at the par 3. He wasn’t, and he didn’t.
The Northern Irishman actually had a one-shot lead as he played the 14th. Everyone around him on the leaderboard had faltered, allowing him to vault up said board much more quickly than he anticipated.
Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational
McIlroy left his tee shot well short on the 190-yard hole, bunkering himself left of the green to a back-left pin. He was unable to get up and down from there, making bogey and ultimately finishing one shot back of champion Kurt Kitayama.
“If I look back on today the one thing I'll rue is the tee shot on 14,” McIlroy said after his round. “I birdied 13 and got on to 14 tee and I honestly thought I was still like one or two behind the lead. As I was walking to the 14th green, I looked behind me at the scoreboard, and I was leading by one. And if I had known that, I wouldn't have tried to play the shot that I played on 14, which was unfortunate.”
The four-time major champion would add another bogey at the 15th before making birdie at the par-5 16th.
McIlroy had a chance to reach the eventual winning score of 9 under, but watched as his 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th missed.
“I hit a good putt. It just missed on the low side. But it was a good week,” McIlroy said. “I saw some positive signs. Game's rounding into form for the bulk of the season.”
After a T-32 at the WM Phoenix Open and a T-29 at the Genesis Invitational, the third-ranked player in the world was encouraged by his play despite falling just short.
“It's getting better,” McIlroy said when speaking about his game. “I feel like I figured out the driver a little bit more this week. Yeah, it's getting there. I think still a couple little things to tidy up and try to get more comfortable with. But, yeah, I mean with Players, Match Play, and then the Masters, so two tournaments between now and then and plenty of time to feel a bit more comfortable with where everything is.”