Losing to Tiger Woods is no disgrace but it’s important now that Rory McIlroy does not linger on the missed putts that arguably cost him his chance to boost his confidence even further in his last start before the Masters.
While his double-bogey seven from the centre of the fairway after a 375-yard drive was a glaring error, it did not escape his attention that Woods holed the clutch putts and applied pressure at the right times.
McIlroy had never trailed in his three group wins and lost just three holes.
But while he made a 12 footer for a half at the second, he missed from seven feet for a half in birdies at the fifth and he lost the sixth to another Woods birdie.
Conditions were difficult but he missed from 12 feet for a win at the seventh, missed from seven feet for a win at the ninth and then three-putted from 32 feet at the 10th, missing a three-footer to gift Woods a three-up lead.
Woods bogeyed the par-five 12th where McIlroy two-putted for an easy win, then saw his lead reduced to just one hole after another McIlroy birdie at the 13th.
In fairness to Woods, he made a seven-footer for a half at the 15th, then arguably forced that McIlroy mistake at the 16th before closing out the match with another clutch putt at the 17th.
The Co Down man looked odds on to win the par-five 16th after he hit a huge, 395-yard drive. Woods drove into a bunker, but after a lay up he hit a crucial third from 204 yards to 25 feet, forcing McIlroy to make birdie to win the hole.
McIlroy had only a short iron to the green — possibly as little as a gap wedge — but it was knocked down by the wind and finished 25 yards short and right of the pin, just above a bunker.
After that, it was a comedy of errors and after bunting his third over the green and watching it tumble over a kerb, across a cart path and into an unplayable lie, he opted to replay from the original sport, one-hopped his fourth into a bunker and conceded after his sixth failed to drop.
Even when Woods offered a glimmer of hope by coming up short at the par-three 17th, McIlroy could not make two from 30 feet, and Woods buried him at the first opportunity, making a 13 footer for par.
“I’d been told he hadn't trailed in a match yet so it was nice to get that lead, especially back-to-back holes [fifth and the sixth]," Woods said. "He gave me a gift at 10, but chipped away at it with a couple of birdies of his own on 12 and 13.
"And 16 was tough. With the wind is blowing as hard as it is, his ball got knocked down. That's just the way it is with these hills here, the way the fronts come through. It was a difficult day for both of us.”
McIlroy is aware of media narratives and steered clear of saying anything in the spur of the moment after his round, making a swift exit.
He took to Instagram afterwards to apologise to the scribes looking for a postmortem and admitted he "squandered" a chance to level his match.
"I want to apologize to the media for not giving them any of my time after the match this morning,"he said. "Although I was disappointed with how the match ended, I showed real patience and persistence to claw a couple of holes back on the back 9, then squandered a great opportunity to get back to all square on 16.
"Definitely one I let get away but I'll learn and move on. I wish Tiger the best for the rest of the tournament, he made a couple of clutch putts on 15 and 17 to shut the door. See everyone at Augusta"
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