G-Mac warming up for Masters but Blue Monster leaves McIlroy cold and frustrated
 Patrick Reed celebrates his victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and his rise to 20th in the world. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Patrick Reed celebrates his victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and his rise to 20th in the world. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell might have work to do to be ready for the Masters but while the Portrush man was upbeat about his performance and the course, the Holywood star was utterly frustrated after a trying final day in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral.

As McDowell finished with a pair of bogeys for a 73 but still finish tied for ninth on two over par — six behind winner Patrick Reed — McIlroy had to wait until the 18th to hole a putt of any significance.

That it was a 10 footer for bogey after he had tugged his approach into the water said it all about the former world number one's week at the newly revamped Blue Monster.

Needless to say, he'll seeing putting coach Dave Stockton when he travels to California to see Caroline Wozniacki in action in Indian Wells this week before returing to Florida to work with coach Michael Bannon ahead of his final tune up before the Masters in Houston.

 Rory McIlroy and Joost Luiten joke before the final round. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Rory McIlroy and Joost Luiten joke before the final round. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

The current world number six had an exasperating day. It was mainly on the greens as he took 32 putts in a two over 74 that left him tied for 25th with world No 1 Tiger Woods and No 2 Adam Scott on five over par.

Whatever about his ability to dominate on big courses, he plainly has issues when the examination requires a more subtle approach to course management on firm, fiery tracks that require more subtelty and short game nous. 

The new-look Blue Monster had him on the back foot all weekend. But it played into the hands of a grinder like McDowell, who wasn't even on his A game, and still finished tied for ninth despite a 73.

“It was more frustrating than anything else,” said McIlroy, who was tied for eighth at halfway before his title challenge suffered a fatal blow when he had two sevens on his card in a 75 on Saturday. 

“I felt like I struck the ball well for the most part, it was just on the greens that I didn't get anything going. Any time I missed the greens I didn't really get up and down.

 Graeme McDowell has swapped his Cleveland driver for a new Srixon model but hasn't quite got it dialled in. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Graeme McDowell has swapped his Cleveland driver for a new Srixon model but hasn't quite got it dialled in. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

“It's a frustrating golf course because you feel you should be doing so much better. It just doesn't allow you to. You have to be so precise just to get the ball close on some of these greens, with these pin positions.”

Following Saturday’s lacklustre 75, McIlroy knew going out that he would need a round in the mid-60s to have any chance of winning. But it was evident after only a handful of holes that it was not going to be his day.

He started brightly enough, splashing out brilliantly from greenside sand to five feet to set up an opening birdie four. But on a course were any waywardness made it almost impossible to get close to some tight pin positions, he was soon making up the numbers as his putter failed to behave.

Fortunate not to find the canal left of the second fairway, he was exasperated to see a series of birdie putts slip by the edge from 13 feet at the third, 15 feet at the fifth and 13 feet at the sixth.

Shoulders slumped as he walked to the eighth, where had run up the first of two double bogey sevens on Saturday, any hopes of a title charge ended when he chipped weakly to eight feet from just off the green and never threatened the hole with the birdie putt.

He ignore the "come on Rory" shouts as he trudged to the ninth tee and when he bunkered his tee shot left in the right to left breeze (a throwback to his problems playing the cut at the Honda), he inevitably failed with a 12 footer for par and simply trundled to the finish.

“I got to the turn even par and thought I should be three or four under,” he said. “I feel like I played a lot better than the score suggests.”

After missing a six footer for birdie at the 10th, a 12 footer for par at the 14th and then took three from the fringe after driving to the back of the 293-yard 16th.

Clearly not a huge fan of the mentally taxing, new-look Blue Monster, he cast doubt on whether the venue would be on his schedule if it weren't a WGC event.

“The old course allowed you to go low, the course the way it is now just doesn't allow you to do that,” he said.

He has three weeks off before he goes to the Houston Open to prepare for the Masters but as he got set to head to Indian Wells to watch Caroline Wozniacki in action last night, he said of Doral: “Maybe re-think the schedule next year. It is more mentally challenging than anything else.”

 Tiger Woods' back issues marred his final round. He shot 78 to finish 25th with McIlroy on five over. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Tiger Woods' back issues marred his final round. He shot 78 to finish 25th with McIlroy on five over. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

Tough as teak mentally, McDowell was significantly more upbeat after his 73, having started the final day five strokes behind the eventual winner.

Two under after eight, he bogeyed the 11th and 13th, birdied the 16th but then dropped shots at the last two holes, driving into the water at the 18th.

“ I didn't really have my A game this weekend,” said McDowell, who will play the Bay Hill Invitational and the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia before heading to Augusta National for the Masters.

“I guess I should be proud of myself for competing in WGCs without playing my best. I feel happy where I am at. I have a lot of work to do but it is all ticking along nicely.”

Like McIlroy, he found that the course put him on the defensive and simply wasn’t playing well enough off the tee, especially since changing from a Cleveland to a Srixon driver, to take it on.

“The course is great. I’d like to see more set ups like this - US Open, British Open golf. I just need to dial this driver in. Driving the ball is the key to me playing well.”

 Rory McIlroy was 54th of the 67 finishers for scrambling at Doral. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Rory McIlroy was 54th of the 67 finishers for scrambling at Doral. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

Tiger Woods’ back problems are clearly a major issue and when the flared up again after he play an awkward shot from a fairway bunker at the sixth, he was never a contender.

He failed to make a birdie for only the eighth time in 1,096 rounds on PGA Tour as professional as he posted a six over 78. His back may have been an issue early on anway.

Three off the lead, he hit two spectators with wayward shots in his first three holes and never got going..

"Well, it's tough. I mean, it was just one thing that set it off,'' said Woods, referring to the sixth. "As I say, I had a quick turnaround from last week. 

"Normally things like this, you shut it down for a while and then get back up and get the strength and everything developed around it. So it will be nice to take this week off and get everything ready for Bay Hill."

Forced to withdraw with five holes to go in the final round of the Honda Classic, the back issue is clearly worrying  not just for the Masters, but the future.

He was plainly relieved just to get to the finish having pulled out with back spasms with five holes to go in the final round at the Honda Classic the previous Sunday.

"It's over," he said. "It's finally over. Which is good.''

As for his plans, he was tighlipped: "I don't know, just let me get through this day, get some treatment and we'll assess it as time goes on."

Texas born Reed became the youngest winner of a World Golf Championship at the age of 23, supplanting Woods.

He was subjected to a torrent of criticism on Saturday night for saying he felt he was a top five player in the world. But after winning for the third time in nine months in impressive fashion, he will clearly be a force for Tom Watson should he make the US Ryder Cup team.

Two ahead overnight, he birdied the first and bogeyed the second to see his lead down to one. But he found another gear and saw off all comers, wisely played for bogey at the last for a 72 and a one-stroke win on four under 284 from Bubba Watson (68) and former Irish Open champion Jamie Donaldson, who shot 70.

The Welshman birdied the 17th needed a birdie at the 18th to draw level with Reed on five under. But he bunkered his approach and bogeyed.

As a consolation prize, he earned enough cash to move up to second in the European Ryder Cup rankings and the PGA Tour may yet meet Reed at Gleneagles in September.