History suggests Rory McIlroy will dust himself down and bounce back from Honda crash

With typical, brutal honesty, Holywood star said: “I didn’t play well enough to deserve to win . . .”

The par-four 16th proves to be Rory McIlroy’s undoing as he plays his approach shot from the bunker into the water hazard. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

The par-four 16th proves to be Rory McIlroy’s undoing as he plays his approach shot from the bunker into the water hazard. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Tue, Mar 4, 2014, 01:00


After a fall, nobody dusts himself down and gets up again quite as well as Rory McIlroy. History is a barometer of that. After his meltdown in the final round of the 2011 Masters, he picked himself up to win the very next Major, the US Open. After he missed the cuts in the 2012 US and British Opens, he went out and won the US PGA championship in record-breaking fashion.

Nope, what happened to McIlroy in Sunday’s final round of the Honda Classic – where he lost out in a four-way play-off to Russell Henley – was a rarity, not the norm.

In fact, it was the first time since that Masters collapse that McIlroy carried a 54-hole lead into a final round and failed to get the job done. On the other occasions he has been in that position (the 2011 US Open, the 2012 Honda Classic, the 2012 US PGA and the 2012 DP World championship), McIlroy went on to close the deal, mostly spectacularly.

With typical, brutal honesty, McIlroy observed afterwards: “I didn’t play well enough to deserve to win . . . so I just need to pick myself up and get back at it, go down to Doral [for the WGC-Cadillac championship] and put myself in position to win again and see if if can do a better job.”

Not a meltdown
What happened to McIlroy on Sunday was not a meltdown, rather some loose swings – compounded by some poor lies in the bunkers – down the stretch. His scrambling was his undoing. The Ulsterman was only tied-41st in the field in the scrambling (15 for 25, averaging 60 per cent) compared to Henley (18 for 25, up at 72 per cent in a demonstration of his short game that included no fewer than four hole-outs).

In McIlroy’s case, his undoing came with the double bogey on the 16th followed by a bogey on the 17th in regulation play which highlighted his problems. Incredibly, those two misdemeanours represented his only over-par scores on the so-called ‘Beat Trap’ holes, from the 15th to the 17th, all week.

Yet, out of those weak shots, he produced a stellar fairway wood approach to the 72nd hole that set up the eagle putt he failed to convert.

McIlroy, who has moved up two places from eighth to sixth in the latest world rankings, joins fellow northerner Graeme McDowell in the field at the renovated Blue Monster course at Doral where Adam Scott, with a win, can dethrone Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings.

Woods was forced to withdraw from the Honda on the 13th hole of his final round due to a back spasm. In a statement, he said it was “too early to tell” if he would be able to defend his title in Doral. “I need treatment every day until Thursday to try and calm it down. We’ll see how it is,” he said.

Was philosophical
McIlroy, for his part, was philosophical in accepting that he didn’t play well enough when it mattered in his quest for a first win on the US PGA Tour since he dominated the tail-end of 2012. “I counted myself very fortunate even to be in the play-off. I didn’t play well enough at all down the stretch to win,” he accepted.

The par-four 16th proved to be McIlroy’s undoing. “I’m just thinking, ‘play those last few holes solid’,” he recalled, “and 16 was what really cost me. I was trying to hit a six-iron right of the target.

“I let the wind bring it back and I just got underneath it and caught it a little heavy [into the water] . . . I had my chances. Even had my chance at the last [with an eagle putt] and it just wasn’t to be.”

He added: “Look, it’s a good finish, my second runner-up in the season. I’m stringing a lot of top-10s, so there’s a few positives to take. It’s going to be hard to get over because I had a great chance to win my first tournament of the season and I didn’t.

“But, look, it’s been a decent week. Got myself into contention again. It’s my third strokeplay event of the year and the third time I’ve been in contention with a chance to win.

“I haven’t been able to walk through that door but I feel like the more times I knock on that door, I’ll eventually step through it.”