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McIlroy's frustration at what might have been
Despite carding his best round of the week at Augusta National, Rory McIlroy suffered a frustrating end to his Masters campaign and will have to wait until next year for another shot at winning a coveted green jacket.
Starting his fourth round at 3-over-par, the Ulsterman made a 69 to finish his tournament the same way he started it, at even-par.
After a solid start on Sunday, McIlroy dropped a further shot at the par-3 4th but four birdies in five holes across the turn brought him back to level-par and a faint hope of a miracle.
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Those hopes were soon extinguished at the par-5 13th, though. Attempting to place his second shot firmly on the green for chance of an eagle, McIlroy's effort fell inches short and dropped deep into Rae's Creek. McIlroy's reaction summed up his week as he slumped and sighed towards the floor.
Bogey ultimately loomed, but McIlroy produced a superb response at 14 to cancel it out. Following an excellent approach into the green, he finished off a 12-foot putt for birdie and moved back to even-par.
However, shades of his 2011 frustration crept in again at the 15th. Despite being in good position to post a second successive birdie and take momentum into his final four holes, McIlroy slipped up and had to settle for a bogey - his first at the 15th in his four rounds this week.
The frustration told as McIlroy threw his ball into the water in disgust before tossing his putter, along with all hopes of clinching a green jacket, towards his bag. His thoughts were evident as he creamed his tee-shot at the par-3 16th and finished for birdie to move back to even-par, where he stayed after his final three holes.
McIlroy told Sky Sports: "I got it going a little bit around the turn and then I guess 13 is where it derailed me a little bit. I only had a 9-iron into the green. I'm going to look back at this week as what might have been. My game's in good shape, especially tee to green, I just need to be a bit more efficient on the greens.
"You should be looking to play the par-5's in at least 10-under par. So even par is not good. Next year I'll try and putt better and play the par fives better and then you never know.
"This course teases you and then takes it away from you. I played well, I drove the ball as well as I have ever done. I'm just not holing the putts I should."
Like McIlroy, Bernhard Langer also made a 69 and finished his four rounds at even-par, alongside Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and John Senden. Stewart Cink, Jamie Donaldson and Henrik Stenson finished a further shot back at 1-over, as did defending champion Adam Scott, who ended his week with a level 72. Alongside Scott in the standings sat Justin Rose, whose mixed-bag 73 left him 1-over for the tournament. Jim Furyk, 3-under through the first four holes on Sunday, eventually finished 1-over after he posted 75.
Bill Haas, who led the field after round one in Georgia, ended his tournament at 2-over, as did Fred Couples. The 1992 champion began with successive birdies but evetually slumped to a 3-over 75, following two double bogeys. Louis Oosthuizen - who finished runner-up to Bubba Watson two years ago - carded a 73 to end at 3-over.
Stephen Gallacher and KJ Choi improved by one shot after they both made 71, while 1999 champion Jose Maria Olazabal also finished 6-over after four rounds. Vijay Singh sat one shot behind at 7-over.
Darren Clarke and Sandy Lyle ended 9-over after their four days following shooting rounds of 72 and 76 respectively.
Ian Poulter carded a final round of 74 to finish 2-over for the tournament and, like McIlroy, admitted he had not been good enough on the par-5s:
Beyond disgusted with my performance on the par 5's for the week. The simple facts on winning a green jacket is you have to play them well.— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) April 13, 2014