Rory McIlroy admits his failure to win the Masters is all in his head and down to mental pressure.
The world No 3 birdied four of the last six holes when all was lost and signed for a 71 to finish tied for 10th, six shots behind Danny Willett on one-over par.
McIlroy suffered another dose of triple trouble heading to Amen Corner with bogeys at the 10th and 11th adding to his horrific record on the first three holes on the back nine.
The Holywood ace, 26, needed a magical final round to challenge for the green jacket he needs to complete the career Grand Slam
But after a rollercoaster front nine that ended at level par, he kissed any hopes of a back nine charge goodbye with two bogeys in the first three holes from the 10th.
Already 26 over for the 10th, 11th and 12th after 29 rounds, he bogeyed the 10th and found water at the 11th to slip nine shots behind the amazing Jordan Spieth, who in turn imploded over the same stretch by following bogeys at the 10th and 11th with a quadruplee bogey seven at the 12th
Known as White Dogwood, the 11th hole cost McIlroy five shots over four rounds as he bogeyed it on Thursday and Friday,
He then made a reckless double bogey there on Saturday when attempting a high risk low-running hook out of the pine needles that ran into the pond.
It was ironic in the end that McIlroy blamed his tentativeness for his failure to win the Masters or, given his “mental” struggles, that there has been no talk of him seekingprofessional help having admitted that the longer the wait goes on, the greater the burden.
“Well, I was in a great position going into the weekend, a shot back in the final group on Saturday and I just didn't play the golf I needed to when it really mattered,” McIlroy said.
“That's the thing that I take away not just from this week, but from previous Masters. I've been in position before and I haven't got the job done when I needed to and I don't think that's anything to do with my game, I think that's more me mentally and I'm trying to deal with the pressure of it and the thrill of the achievement if it were to happen. I think that's the thing that's really holding me back.
“The more times I can get in position to win this tournament, the more times I'll learn and I'll know what not to do. And I feel like I learned a lot yesterday reflecting on it and that's something that hopefully I'll [learn from] and do things differently.”
Asked what he learned, he said: “Just how I played, how I felt out there. I felt very tentative, played very defensively, felt very similar to how I played the last round at Doral, playing with the lead. You're just trying not to make mistakes instead of attacking and trying to make birdies. Trying not to make mistakes is not my game, that's not what I do. And if I were to have yesterday back that's what I would do differently.”
The pressure to win the Masters is growing greater ever year and McIlroy has no problem recognising that fact.
“Yeah, this is the one that I haven't won and this is the one I want to win more than anything else,” he said. “I won a Claret Jug, I want to win more. I won a Wanamaker, I won the U.S. Open, but this is the one that I haven't.
“Once I overcome that mental hurdle that I'm struggling with at the minute, then I know how to play this course, I've played this course very well before, and I can string good rounds together here, but it's just a matter of doing it.”
He refused to blame his putting, adding: “I feel like it's been okay. I'm not coming away from here that disappointed with my putting, to be honest. Putting here is more difficult than anywhere else that we play on tour.
“I hit good putts that didn't go in and I've hit not so good putts and I made a few three‑putts, but that's to be expected out here. When I look back on it, I don't think that's what's cost me the Tournament this week at all.
“Trying not to make mistakes, trying to be too careful, that's the stuff that's holding me back. As I said, that's not the way I play. And it's almost as if I need to go out here and not respect the golf course as much, to go out there and not really care where I miss it or where I don't miss it, everyone talks about at Augusta you need to miss it here, you need to miss it there, it's all about your misses, but I would rather hit it right on line than miss in the right place. So, yeah, I just, I was a little too careful out there yesterday, trying to just be a little bit too tentative, I guess. I don't know how else to describe it.”
McIlroy was five shots adrift of Spieth starting the day after going down 77-73 to the American in their head to head battle in round three.
He needed a hot start to put pressure on the Texan but bogeyed the first even after a lucky ricochet out of the trees.
After driving in the bunker at the second and settling for par, he had a chance to make a rare eagle two at the 350-yard third when hit an incredible tee shot onto the green.
But hemissed his 16 footer and then hit his tee shot into the bushes at the par-three fourth and dropped another shot.
Another bogey at the fifth looked to have ended his hopes and while he birdied the seventh from three feet, he missed a six footer for eagle at the eighth to find himself six shots behind Spieth.
The 22-year old, who was bidding to become the first man in golf history to win back-to-back Majors in wire-to-wire fashion was just one ahead of Smylie Kaufman starting the day,
But as Kaufman turned in 40, Spieth raced to the turn in four under 32 to extend his lead to five shots over Willett on seven under par.
The American birdied the second and then followed a bogey at the fifth with four birdies in a row from the sixth before he was bunkered right at the 10th and fell back to six under, three ahead of Willett, who had just five hole to play.
Another bogey at the 11th followed by two shots into the water at the 12th, effectively ended Spieth’s Masters.
As he chunked his tee shot and saw it slide back into Rae’s Creek, he took a drop in the fairway and then duffed that into the water again before finding the back bunker in five.
He got up and down for a seven to fall back to one under as Willett birdied the 16th to go five under and never looked back, posting a flawless 67 to set the target at five under.
Spieth birdied the 13th and 15th but his title challenge ended at the 17th, when he bunkered his approach and bogeyed, carding a 73 to share second with Lee Westwood (69), three shots behind on two under.
McIlroy birdied the 13th, 14th, 15th and then followed a three-putt bogey at the 16th with a birdie at the last.
Had he played the 10th, 11th and 12th in level par rather than seven over, he would have beaten Willett by a shot.
Then again, had Spieth not also played the same stretch in seven over par, he could have won by four.