April 11, 2014

The Masters: McIlroy’s bad day still good enough



THEY SAY YOU’VE got to be a pretty good pitcher to lose 20 games in the majors.

To that backhanded compliment bag, let’s add, “You’ve got to be a pretty good golfer to play like Rory McIlroy did Friday and still make the cut at the Masters” because, boy did the world’s No. 9 player scuffle Friday.

It was the kind of day to delight duffers who watched the game torture one of its best players. McIlroy’s tee shot on the par-3 fourth hole zipped 30 yards by and stopped the hearts of all of the sport’s female fans when it nearly hit an unsuspecting Adam Scott standing on the fifth tee. On No. 10, he was in the trees behind the green. On No. 13, he hit a sprinkler head and ended up in the azaleas.

“I have seen a lot of this golf course over the last few years,” McIlroy joked.

It was the kind of day that makes you say things like this afterward: “When I got in the scorer’s area and saw I was in 46th place, it was a bit of a sigh of relief.”

That’s because that placement means he’ll play the weekend and have a chance to bury the memory of today’s round. That wasn’t guaranteed until he hit a six-foot putt on the final hole.

“I didn’t know if it was going to be the 10-shot rule, so I didn’t know if that putt on the last was to make the cut or not,” he said as the sun set at Augusta.

McIlroy played with the last group Friday and didn’t leave the course until nearly 8 p.m. He’ll tee off this morning at 10:15. Even late in the day Friday, when he could have made things easy on himself, he didn’t. He missed an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 15 that would have given him breathing room on the final three holes. He missed another makeable putt at 17.

“I feel like I played well coming in, gave myself looks at birdie at basically every hole, just couldn’t get one to drop,” he said. “Felt like I hit good putts and they were either hitting the high side of the hole or the low side of the hole, anything but going in.”

McIlroy’s round featured three bogeys and two doubles.

“I am driving the ball as well as I ever have, and that should be giving me opportunities to score a little bit better,” he said. “I’m just not getting anything out of my game at the minute, or at least today.”

He is holding out little hope for a weekend charge. At this point, survival seems like a victory.

“I just want to go out there and try to get off to a fast start,” he said. “Eleven shots back with two rounds to play, it’s going to be nearly impossible to make up. I’m trying to shoot two really low rounds and see where that puts me at the end of it.”

The lasting image of McIlroy’s Friday round will be a surprised Scott hopping out of the way of McIlroy’s ball as it buzzed a foot behind his waist on the way to a deep spot in the woods. It’s the kind of shot you’d laugh about if you almost hit your buddy at the muni course, but McIlroy nearly dinged the defending Masters champion.

“It was into the wind and it was a perfect little cut 5-wood,” he said. “The wind laid on it a little bit before I was about to hit it. So, I backed off, and then I felt it again, so I went into it and hit the shot that I wanted to. It was all over the pin. It was just 30 yards too long.”

McIlroy salvaged a double-bogey.

“I wish it would have come closer to (Scott),” McIlroy said. “He would have stopped it.”

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