McIlroy rues six-hole stretch, but game ‘clicking more’

golf20 May 2024 04:13| © Reuters

Rory McIlroy won the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in a photo finish, but on Sunday in Louisville, Kentucky, it was another player's turn for major championship glory.

While Xander Schauffele won his first major with a birdie putt at the final hole, McIlroy was left to think about the could-have-beens as he tied for 12th at 12 under, nine strokes back.

McIlroy started and finished the major strong – a 66 Thursday put him in contention and a 67 Sunday featured three birdies in a row and seven overall.

But the Northern Irishman began the day too far off the pace set by Schauffele and Collin Morikawa, and his strong finish was little comfort as his major championship drought crept closer to 10 full years.

"Obviously started the week well, and then I've obviously played decent over the weekend," McIlroy said. "As I said, that sort of six-hole stretch on the back nine yesterday, not being able to hole any putts, I'll probably rue that. Then the 71 on Friday, as well, was obviously not what I was looking for. Obviously put myself too far back."

The stretch he had in mind was more like seven holes – the 11th through 17th in his third round Saturday. He missed makeable birdie chances at Nos. 11, 12, 15 and 17, the latter from just 5 1/2 feet. McIlroy also bogeyed Nos. 14 and 16 amid that stretch.

McIlroy had every reason to feel confident on his way into Louisville. Not only was there the course familiarity, he had won his previous two starts. He teamed with Irishman Shane Lowry to capture the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, a team event, and he won last week against a strong field at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.

Insisting his game was in good shape, McIlroy looked ahead.

"I've been on a big stretch of golf here. I think this was my sixth event in seven weeks," he said. "I've got a week off and then I'm playing another four in a row. I'm feeling good about my game. I feel like things are sort of clicking more, especially after the win in New Orleans. Obviously played well last week in Charlotte. Have a week here to sort of reset and try to get going again."

McIlroy's last major triumph was the 2014 PGA at Valhalla, which was played in August before changes to the golf calendar. He has two more opportunities this year to break through: the US Open next month at Pinehurst No 2 and the Open Championship in July at Royal Troon.