US Masters: The two holes that cost Rory McIlroy dear

World number two played the 4th and 11th holes at Augusta in a total of nine over par

 

Nobody needs to tell Rory McIlroy how hard it is to win a career Grand Slam. Only five players have ever completed the feat - Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods - and, in looking at that elite club, the names of those who never actually managed to win all four Majors reinforces how difficult the deed is.

Think about it. Sam Snead. Byron Nelson. Arnold Palmer. Tom Watson. Lee Trevino. All of them came up one championship short of completing the Grand Slam in their careers and, of the current crop, Phil Mickelson (missing a US Open title) and Rory McIlroy are the two men seeking to click the final piece of the jigsaw into place.

Mickelson gets another chance in the US Open in June. Lefty has been a runner-up in the championship on no fewer than six times, some of which he let slip in every bit as dramatic a fashion as Jordan Spieth at the Masters. Mickelson will celebrate his 46th birthday on the day of the first round of this year’s US Open. It’s another opportunity to close the deal, but time is no longer his friend.

In contrast, McIlroy - at just 26 years of age - has time on his side. But he left Augusta National on Sunday fully aware that this was another chance to get his hands on a green jacket, the same size - 38 Regular - as that slipped onto Danny Willett.

The Achilles heel, so to speak, for McIlroy were two holes: the fourth and the 11th. In his play of those two particular holes, McIlroy was nine-over par in the tournament. The fourth, a Par 3, saw him record scores of 4-5-3-4 and the 11th, a Par 4, saw him score 5-5-6-5. It was the difference between winning and losing, in many respects. Others, of course, will also point to their foibles.

What it all means is that McIlroy won’t get the next chance to complete that final leg of the Grand Slam for another year. “This is the one I want to win more than anything else,” said the Northern Irishman for the obvious reason. “I won a Claret Jug. I want to win more. I won a Wanamaker (PGA). I won the US Open. But this is the one that I haven’t. Once I overcome that mental hurdle that I’m struggling with at the minute, then I know how to play this course. I can string good rounds together, it’s just a matter of doing it.”

In playing Augusta, and possibly because of what happened in the final round of 2011, McIlroy’s normal aggressive game appears to be stymied, almost by a fear of being out of position or finding the wrong spots on the greens. “It’s almost as if I need to go out and not respect the course as much,” he admitted.

With the Masters, the one he really wants, gone for another year, McIlroy moves onwards in search of a first win of the season. He is adamant that there is nothing wrong with his game. “I don’t think there is anything. Physically, my game, my swing, the way I am hitting the ball, the way I am chipping, pitching, putting, it is all sort of there. It is just putting it together when I need to!”

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