Rory Mcilroy spoke to TV and radio, headed to change his shoes and then banged them on a locker door in frustration as he headed for the exit and a flight out of Rochester. His discontent was understandable after his potential final round charge was halted almost before it began when he ended up in Allen’s Creek and took a triple bogey seven just five holes into the final round of the US PGA.
The 428-yard fifth - known as Double Trouble by the locals - is one of Oak Hill’s most dangerous holes with water a threat off the tee and on the approach.
His playing partner, Lee Westwood, drove into the water there en route to a 76 that relegated him to 33rd place. But while the Englishman escaped with a bogey, McIlroy’s triple ended his hopes of becoming the first man to win back-to-back US PGA titles since Tiger Woods in 2007.
Despite a capricious kick off a depression that saw his ball stop and then roll back into the hazard, he again showed his resilience by coming back strongly to close with a level par 70 for a share of eighth place on three under. It’s a results that definitively draws a line under his 2013 slump and heralds great days ahead in the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai.
“I actually didn’t hit a bad shot,” McIlroy said of the triple bogey that killed his chances. “I had 168 to the pin, hit nine-iron, pitched it just in the place where you can’t pitch it, I guess. If it had been a few feet right or a few feet left, it would have been fine. But it just pitched in that little depression and came back into the water.
“I really didn’t hit a bad shot and it was obviously disappointed but I came back okay in the end. I was four under at that point after missing a little putt on the fourth to get to five and then doing that, yeah, I felt like I just wanted to try and post as good a score as I could.”
The world No 3 was six shots behind Jim Furyk starting the day but sprinted out of the blocks by holing a 25 footer for birdie at the third.
A bad birdie miss from four feet at the par-five fourth was a blow to his hopes. But his title challenge sank at the fifth where Allen’s Creek is in play off the tee and in front of the green.
The Holywood star found the fairway but looked on in despair as his approach rolled off the front of the green and ended up in the rocks on the edge of the water hazard.
Forced to take a penalty drop, he air-mailed the green with his fourth, came up short on the fringe with his fifth and took two more from there for a nasty triple bogey seven.
Two over for the day, McIlroy fought back with brilliant birdies at the ninth and 10th and another from 15 feet at the 13th.
He missed the fairway and the green at the 16th to drop back to three under, level for the day, and parred his way home.
But having showed his mettle by making four birdies in the last eight holes on Friday to make the cut and the coming back from his early setback in the final round, he was proud of his performance and looking forward to a good end to the season.
“I played well on the way in,” he said. “I played the best golf of the week today and hit some really good drives and irons shots. I didn’t quite putt as well as the first three days but I am really, really happy with my game going into the end of the season.
“I didn’t hit many bad shots out there today. I made a big number on five and I hit a good shot there and did exactly what I wanted to do with it. It pitched in the exact wrong place. But everything else feels pretty good.
“I felt they set the golf course up fantastically well. If you missed a drive by a long way, you were in trouble. And if you missed it by a fraction, you still had to play a great shot but you still had a chance to get it on the green and have a chance for birdie.”
Asked how much of a step forward he had taken with his game at Oak Hill, he said: “It’s been very big. I saw a lot of great signs out there today. So hopefully I can bring that through in the next few weeks and have a strong finish to the season.”
The Ulsterman, 24, has had a year to forget since he signed his estimated huge deal with Nike in January.
Beaten in the first round of the Accenture Match Play by pal Shane Lowry, he was so frustrated with his game that he walked off after just 27 holes of his title defence at the Honda Classic.
He then lost his world No 1 ranking to Tiger Woods, finished 25th in the Masters and mangled a club in the final round as he limped home to a share of 41st in the US Open. Add to that those back to back missed cuts in the Irish Open and The Open and McIlroy had little reason to be cheerful heading to Firestone for the Bridgestone Invitational.
But a share of 27th place there, coupled with some words of wisdom on body language as well as putting from two-time major winner Dave Stockton, appears to have worked wonders.