- Valero Texas Open, Round Four
McIlroy misses out on Texas win
Rory McIlroy missed out on winning the Valero Texas Open after being pipped to the post by Martin Laird in a tense finale at San Antonio.
The world No. 2 was desperate to find some form in time for the Masters at Augusta next Thursday, but despite coming close to being the champion, McIlroy can be pleased with the performance as his game looks to be in decent shape heading into the first major of the year.
"Even though I didn't get the trophy, Martin was just too good today - 63 in these conditions is just phenomenal," McIlroy said. "I'm really pleased with my game and I think this has been a great week for me. Just eliminating the stupid mistakes that I was making on the course, mental errors, and to finish off this tournament in the way I did today is great going into Augusta."
Prior to his win, Laird had only won two PGA Tour events, most notably the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill a couple of years ago. By winning the Texas Open by two shots after firing a final round of 63 - tying the course record - and finishing on 14-under-par, Laird has now qualified for the Masters.
"It's unbelievable. I've been asked probably 30 times in the last couple of weeks 'Are you in Augusta? Are you in Augusta?' and I've had to say 'No', and every time it kind of hurt me a little bit after playing the last couple," Laird said.
McIlroy began the final round four shots off overnight leader Billy Horschel despite having a mixed day on the green.
However, with the Northern Irishman still in contention for the victory on the final day, he began brightly by notching up two pars and a birdie on the opening three holes.
The 23-year-old came unstuck at the fourth par-four after dropping a shot when failing to sink a putt from over 18 feet. He recovered superbly to card three birdies in the following five holes to round off the first nine in style.
McIlroy found the bunker on the tenth on his way to producing a second bogey of the day, and parred the 11th despite being in the bunker for a second consecutive hole. McIlroy clocked up another birdie after backing up his fine tee-off to land within a couple of feet of the cup.
It was a three-way tie for second spot after 13 holes, with McIlroy, Horschel and Jim Furyk all hunting down Laird, who was two shots ahead at this point. Three challengers to Laird soon became two, as the final few holes turned out to be a battle between Laird and McIlroy.
Laird was five shots adrift when he started his final round, but five birdies on the front nine and one on the 12th saw the Scotsman race up the leaderboard.
Birdie on the 14th brought McIlroy to within one shot of Laird, but the latter opened up his two-shot advantage on the 16th by landing a 17-foot putt. Laird though did not begin well on the penultimate hole as he teed-off straight into the bunker. With McIlroy reducing the deficit to one again, Laird from the rough held his nerve to restore the two-shot lead.
McIlroy could not capitalise on the par-three 17th by narrowly missing out on birdie, and had it all to do on the final hole. Laird picked out the rough but got up and down to finish off with a third straight birdie to end McIlroy's hopes.