Rory McIlroy’s mini meltdown at the Honda Classic may leave him with scar tissue and raise questions over his psyche under pressure — just not for winner Russell Henley.
The 24-year old from Georgia claimed his second PGA Tour win with a birdie at the first extra hole, not because he was encouraged by McIlroy’s many mistakes but because he was inspired by the Holywood star’s undoubted class.
"I'd never played with him before bit his game is super impressive to watch — the way he hits the golf ball — I think I got better because of it,” Henley told The Irish Examiner after Sunday night’s dramatic finish.
“Would I put money on him for Doral? I'd put money on him any week. He's just a seriously impressive player, he's won two majors and he's only 24. That just about says it all."
McIlroy was literally red-faced during the final round, not because of the Florida sun, but because he lost control of his swing when he needed it most.
He said on the eve of the final round that it was no-coincidence that he’d converted the four 54-hole leads he’d had since his 2011 Masters collapse into victories.
“I learned how not to protect a 54‑hole lead,” he said on Saturday night. “I went out there being very protective, very cautious, and it's not the way — I should have just stuck to the game plan, stuck to my process, not look at the leaderboard, not look at what other people are doing.
“So it was a huge learning day in my career, and I learned a lot from it and that's the reason that every 54‑hole lead that I've had since I've been able to close the deal. Hopefully I can keep that run going tomorrow.”
It didn’t turn out that way and his plan to go out “and try and limit the mistakes” backfired as he hit destructive shots left on the sixth, seventh, ninth, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th and ended up shooting a four over 74.
But given how he’s come back from his previous reverses, winning the 2011 US Open just weeks after that 80 at Augusta National and taking the 2012 US PGA following horrible run of form, it’s all but given that he’ll come back stronger.
The stellar five-wood he hit to 11 feet on the 72nd hole will give him the motivation to get back on the horse at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral this week.
“It’s tough to take at the minute but I'll sleep it off tonight and get back at it,” said McIlroy who at least moved up two spots to world No 6. “Tomorrow is a new week and I’ll try to get myself back into contention next week at Doral and see if I can do a better job.”