McIlroy meltdown in Florida as he loses in play-off
Ulsterman pledges to pick himself up for Doral after shooting final round 74
Rory McIlroy tees off on the ninth hole during the final round of The Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy fell victim to his first meltdown since the 2011 Masters when he crashed to a final round 74 and lost in a four-way play-off for the Honda Classic in Florida yesterday.
Returning to the 18th for the play-off, he overshot the green and found the back bunker in two but went through the green with his third, chunked his next one onto the green and had to hole an eight footer for par.
It made no difference in the end and after Russell Knox and Ryan Palmer both failed to make birdie, 24-year old Russel Henley two putted for a winning four, holing a two footer for his second PGA Tour victory.
McIlroy said: “I had that three putt on 13 and then the second shot on 16 killed me.
“I hit underneath it and hit it a little heavy. I did well to make the play-off but I had an awkward yardage for my second.
‘Pick myself up’
“A 74 today wasn’t good enough to get the job done. If I had won it would have felt a little undeserved. I have to pick myself up, get back at it and try to get myself into contention at Doral next week.”
McIlroy had extricated himself from the gore of the Bear Trap to force a play-off at the Honda Classic with a sensational birdie four at PGA National’s 18th.
The 24-year-old Holywood star was confident before the start that his infamous Augusta National reverse had taught him how to defend a lead.
McIlroy's approach on 18
But instead of blossoming under pressure coming down the stretch he fell victim to the treacherous Bear Trap holes, splashing down in the lake from a fairway trap to run up a double bogey six at the 16th when one clear and then dropping another shot at the par-three 17th to go to the last needing a birdie to match clubhouse leaders Palmer (69) and Knox (71) who were in on eight under par.
Tied for fourth and with playing partner Henley also on eight under, he split the fairway and then hit a towering five wood from 145 yards to 11 feet but after Henley had failed to make birdie, McIlroy’s eagle putt for his seventh PGA Tour win slipped past the edge to set up a four-way playoff with Henley, Knox and Palmer on eight under as he signed for a four over par 74.
On a day when Tiger Woods was five over for his round with five to play when he withdrew citing back spasms, McIlroy’s hook under pressure returned at just the wrong time.
When the Ulsterman, already two over for the day, went one clear of Palmer and Russell Henley with five to play, Jack Nicklaus told TV audiences that he should look at the inexperienced names on the leaderboard and realise he was the favourite.
“These guys are unproven, Rory is proven,” Nicklaus said. “He should have the advantage coming down the stretch.”
It didn’t quite turn out that way. Three clear after a birdie at the third, McIlroy bogeyed the fourth and birdied the fifth to to three ahead again but he was soon involved in a dogfight.
After being forced to hole a six footer for par after flying the sixth, he bunkered his 200-yard seven-iron at the par-three seventh and missed a 10 footer for par.
Just two ahead of Palmer and Knox on 12 under at that stage he then followed a par at the eighth with a bogey at the ninth where he found a tricky lie in sand left of the green and failed to get out the first time.
Tied for lead
One clear of Henley and Knox with nine to play, he found himself tied for the lead for the first time when he drove into a bunker at the 12th and then three-putted from 60 feet, coming up seven feet short with his approach putt.
Bogeys by Henley at the 13th and Palmer at the 16th left him one clear again before Henley rejoined the lead by chipping in for birdie at the 14th. McIlroy was soon clear again when Henley carved his tee shot into the water at the 181-yard 15th — the first of the three holes that make up the Bear Trap.
But the Holywood star returned the favour, chunking a 197-yard fairway bunker shot into the lake at the 16th.
He then bunkered his tee shot left at the 17th and missed an eight footer for par to go to last in fourth place, one behind clubhouse leaders Palmer (69), Russell Knox (71) and Henley.
Needing a birdie to force a possible playoff, McIlroy almost went one better with that sensational five wood to 11 feet but just failed to put a day of struggles behind him.