Stop me if you've heard this before. Rory McIlroy blew a lead down the stretch.
Going into the final day of the 2014 Honda Classic, the 24-year-old sat atop the leaderboard. Things started well enough, with a birdie on No. 3. Then things began to unravel. Slowly but surely his lead withered away, and the meltdown reached critical mass as he double-bogeyed No. 16 and bogeyed 17.
A birdie on the 18th hole was only good enough to get McIlroy into a four-way playoff, which Russell Henley won.
After the match, he admitted to NBC that even if he won, it wouldn't have felt like a victory, per The Guardian.
"Seventy-four today wasn't good enough today to get the job done," McIlroy said. "Even if I had won it would have felt a little bit underserved. If I had won today, I would have counted myself very lucky."
And thus a narrative was formed, or at least enforced—McIlroy is the second coming of Greg Norman.
Although there's no arguing that he does have a knack for fading in the last few rounds, it's extremely harsh to make a concrete judgment that McIlroy is some kind of serial choker.
This idea first formed at Augusta in 2011. He had two double bogeys and two bogeys on the back nine to lose the Masters. After that, there were his terrible weekend performances at the 2012 Masters and 2013 U.S. Open and then his poor third round at the 2013 Masters.
As GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel wrote, the fourth round at the 2011 Masters served as the tip of the iceberg rather than a learning experience:
Let's not forget, though, that McIlroy is just 24 years old. In any sport, that's pretty young, but in golf, that's like being an infant. He's got what, 15-20 years of really good golf ahead?
McIlroy's almost being punished for emerging at such a young age. He finished third at the 2009 PGA Championship, 2010 Open Championship and 2010 PGA Championship and then won the 2011 U.S. Open. By then it was determined that while McIlroy might not be the next Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus, he was at least some young prodigy who would reign supreme over the sport for the next generation.
Apparently winning two major championships isn't good enough. Let's look past that and focus only on McIlroy's failures.
These are the same people who jumped on the "LeBron James can't win the big one" bandwagon before he won a title with the Miami Heat, looking past how he single-handedly carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals.
McIlroy is going to have his problems. He's still very young. Most golfers don't peak until their mid-to-late 20s or early 30s. Eight of Woods' 14 major titles came after his 26th birthday. After Nicklaus turned 30, he won 11 majors.
For crying out loud, Phil Mickelson didn't win his first major championship until he was 34 years old. He's since gone on to win four more majors, and all of his problems on the big stage have been long forgotten.
If McIlroy is 40 and still throwing tournaments away in the final round, then we'll talk.
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