Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry leave Augusta with plenty of positives

A final round of 64 has confirmed to McIlroy that he and Augusta National are a good fit

Rory McIlroy allowed himself to be, well, Rory McIlroy, if the truth be known. As spectacular as his final round shot-making proved to be – sinking putts from off the green, holing out with that bunker shot on 18 – in claiming runner-up to Scottie Scheffler in his 14th Masters appearance, the exit down Magnolia Lane brought with it a knowledge that his return next April will be with a greater sense that deliverance of a green jacket is closer than ever.

“I just think all these memories that are building up . . . the more memories I can build up and the more, if I do put myself in a position closer to the lead going into Sunday, that I can delve into that memory ban and try to use those memories and my experience to my advantage,” said McIlroy of how future attempts will hopefully benefit from the past.

There is one particular statistic about McIlroy’s rounds in the Masters that is intriguing. Of his 14 appearances around Augusta National, he has managed 15 rounds in the 60s. Of those just two were recorded on Thursdays (first round); three on Fridays (second round); three on Saturdays (third round), while no fewer than seven have come on Sundays.

The most recent, a 64 that was just one shot off the course record, was the most spectacular of them all, and also the one that will give him belief going forward that his time will, one day, surely come.


Good golf

“I have to take the positives and move on, not only for this tournament in the years to come, but for the next few weeks and months because I am playing good golf and finally there is a result to show for it,” said McIlroy, who earned a payday of €1.62 million as well as a silver salver and a silver medal for being runner-up and also a crystal vase for the low finishing round.

What his final round confirmed to McIlroy is that he and Augusta National are a good fit. As he put it “I’ve always known that I can do it. I’ve played good enough around here, maybe just haven’t strung four rounds together, but I’ve always know that I have the game to win at this place.

“It’s just a matter of having that game for four days in a row, and not making big numbers and shooting yourself in the foot, I guess. That was my attitude the first couple of days . . . but in the course of a tournament you are going to find some spots where you go on a birdie run and you try to take advantage of some of the good golf that you play.”

He added: “I don’t think it just sets me up for next year, it sets me up for the rest of the year. I feel like my game has been sort of quietly pretty good without the results to really show for it.”

In terms of the Majors, next up is the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa – where again there will be a quartet of Irish competitors with McIlroy joined by Shane Lowry, Séamus Power and Pádraig Harrington in that field – although before that McIlroy will have the defence of his Wells Fargo title.


For Lowry, a tied-third place finish also brought with it anticipation for the weeks and months ahead. Lowry earned a payday of almost €800,000 for his best Masters result, but it also moved him from 49th up to 29th in the updated FedEx Cup standings.

Lowry – who is playing in the RBC Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, this week’s PGA Tour stop – was a bit like McIlroy, positive about his chances of one day acquiring a green jacket in the future:

“I hope I come in here next year with the form I’ve had this year and I might give it a good go again. But it won’t be from the lack of trying . . . I think I have believed that I can do whatever in this game. I just haven’t allowed myself to come to these tournaments and do it.

“ Coming in I was playing great golf. My form was really good and I felt very comfortable, so I’m hoping next year when I get back I’ll feel the same and give it another go. Who knows what shape my game will be in this time next year. But I’ve got so many positives to take from it, it’s kind of onwards and upwards from here.”

Séamus Power’s debut in the Masters – coming tied-27th in his first career Major appearance – also whet the appetite for further championships this season. He is in the field for the US PGA and as he is now up to a career-best 40th in the world rankings he looks set to secure places in the US Open (top 60) and British Open (top 50) at the respective cut-off points.

Power has a week off before mapping out his schedule up to the PGA, so Lowry is one of just two Irish players, along with Graeme McDowell, competing in Hilton Head.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times