McIlroy’s struggles ignited Sunday’s drama at Augusta

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Teddy Greenstein
Monday, April 11, 2011
— One man screamed, “Way to go, Rory!”

And after Rory McIlroy concluded a television interview, CBS’ Peter Kostis gave him a hug.

“You’ll get ’em, Rory!” hollered another man.

Golf can be a cruel game, and the Masters patrons know it. Who can’t relate to a 21-year-old kid who stumbles? It’s easier than identifying with someone who leaves the world’s most exclusive golf club wearing a green jacket.

McIlroy knew his Masters run was history after he hooked his tee shot into Rae’s Creek on No. 13, but this sport does not permit you to say: “No mas.” You carry on, in the sweltering heat, for all the public to see.

And if you have mettle, you face a mob of reporters and answer questions about your failures, just as Greg Norman did after he blew a six-shot lead in 1996.

McIlroy did that Sunday off the 18th green with the giant scoreboard serving as a backdrop. It still had his name on the top line.

Talk about cruel.

The red numbers showed “11” after the ninth hole. Then 8-7-5-5-5-4-4-4-4.

“I was leading this golf tournament with nine holes to go,” he said, “and I just unraveled.”

McIlroy, 12 under to start the day and four clear of everyone, shot an 8-over 80. Norman even beat him by two shots while delivering that Masters trophy to Nick Faldo.

“It’s going to be hard to take for a few days, but I’ll get over it,” McIlroy said. “A couple of pretty good friends were in a similar position to me last year in Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney.”

Watney shot 81 in the final round of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Johnson collapsed at the Pebble Beach U.S. Open, closing with 82.

When did it begin to go wrong for McIlroy on Sunday? Try Saturday night.

“Louie Oosthuizen sent me a text saying: Don’t let Rory look at his phone,” McIlroy’s manager, Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, said of the 2010 British Open champion. “Because he will get so many suggestions on what to do. Rory probably read them all.”

Don’t pity Chandler. He embraced Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, another of his clients, off the 18th green.

About three hours before McIlroy’s tee time, Chandler recalled their meeting at an event hosted by Darren Clarke in Northern Ireland.

“Rory was a 3 handicap,” Chandler said. “He was 12 years old—and a cocky little - - - - .

“Now he’s an old 21. He looks 15, but he plays like he’s 30.”

Not while launching his “Star Trek” tee shot on the 10th ... going where no man has gone before. McIlroy hit it so far left, he found himself between two cabins.

“Thinking about switching my TV off,” friend and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell tweeted shortly thereafter. “This just got ugly.”

McIlroy’s triple-bogey helped transform the Masters from a tournament to a six-way intersection with no traffic lights.

Schwartzel birdied the final four holes, while McIlroy limped home with a back-nine 43.

“It was a character-building day,” he said. “Put it that way.”

Last updated: 5:00 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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