McIlroy’s collapse sets him up for future success

Zach Sepanik

It’s not easy being a 21-year-old on the PGA Tour, and for that matter, trying to win on the biggest stage in golf: the Masters.

Irishman Rory McIlroy, the ninth-ranked player in the world, found that out the hard way April 10. His final round of 8-over-par 80 was an 18-hole walk away from a green jacket and toward the wrong side of history.

The pressure McIlroy faced at Augusta National was insurmountable for someone new to the last group on a Sunday in a major tournament. The curly-haired phenom headed into the final round with a 4-stroke lead and history on his side, as 19 of the past 20 Masters champions had come from the final pairing.

His front nine score of 37, 1-over par, wasn’t awful and his start offered a glimpse to his sound play evident up to that point. The back nine, however, turned into a funeral procession.

McIlroy’s tee shot on No. 10 hooked into the cottages, as far left as a player can go and still be in play. It all led to a triple-bogey 7. And from there, there was only one question: How bad would it get?

McIlroy’s stretch continued with a bogey on No. 11, double-bogey on No. 12, an awry tee shot on No. 13, followed by a bogey on No. 15. The aspiration for his first major had turned into an obituary. It was as if McIlroy had taken a skydiving plummet from an airplane and his parachute never opened.

Cheers bounced off the trees for Tiger Woods, Angel Cabrera, Adam Scott, Jason Day, and finally, Charles Scwhartzel, who all made a run at the lead. But, the silence that followed McIlroy was enough to understand he was finished. I, along with just about everyone else who watched, thought he was going to win. There was just no way someone that good could just lose it so badly.

McIlroy had dominated 63 holes and with one shot, his play turned from prodigy to failure. Even Tiger Woods, who has been so dismal since his marital feud, found a way to look like his former self. Yet, as McIlroy stumbled off the 18th green, shirt untucked and pride lost somewhere in the woods of the back nine, everyone cheered, from the patrons to Phil Mickelson’s wife.

That Sunday was a milestone for McIlroy as he grew. He grew older, he grew in experience and in a strange way, he grew in stature. The game of golf doesn’t care and McIlroy found that out. He shrugged off the excuses that he is “only 21” and faced all questions after his performance like the pro he is.

From here on out, I’m rooting for the guy. I’m looking ahead to someday when he finally hoists a U.S. Open Trophy, Claret Jug, Wanamaker Trophy, or is able to slip on a green jacket, because he deserves it.

[email protected]