It's not often that a three-under 69 on Sunday at the Masters feels underwhelming, but that's how things tend to go with Rory McIlroy.
The 24-year-old closed out an odd Masters tournament with his best round of the week to propel him into a tie for ninth place at even-par, but a couple of Par-5 bogeys on the back nine left many wondering what could have been.
In fact, after the completion of his round, McIlroy was quick to point to the Par-5's as an area that needs improvement:
Not the week I wanted but know what I need to do next year. Even par for the par 5's wasn't good enough! Can't wait for 2015! #masters— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) April 13, 2014
McIlroy later commented on the week and Augusta National (via Brian Wacker of PGATour.com):
"It's been a frustrating week, because I felt like from tee‑to‑green I played as good as the leaders," said McIlroy, who tied for 10th with an even-par 288 total. "I don't think I've ever played as good tee‑to‑green around this course as I have this week. I just need to take some more chances that I've given myself on the greens."
"I love the golf course," he said. "I love playing it, and I know I can do well here. It's just a matter of making the most of my chances because I gave myself plenty of chances here this week."
Here's a look at his final scorecard:
And the leaderboard:
It was a shaky start for McIlroy, who appeared to be set for a nondescript round and quiet finish somewhere outside the top 25. After underwhelming pars on the opening two holes, where birdies were flowing like wine, he parred No. 3 and then fell victim to arguably the most difficult hole on the course with a bogey at the "Flowering Crab Apple" Par 3 fourth.
Just like that, he was four-over for the tournament and seemingly en route to a painful disappearing act.
But the roller coaster that has been McIlroy's Masters ride was about to hit another peak.
After a couple of pars on Nos. 5 and 6, McIlroy poured in three consecutive birdies on 7, 8 and 9 before tallying a par on the first hole of the back nine. Considering his struggles on No. 10 this week—double bogey on Friday, bogey on Saturday—the latter of that four-hole stretch might have been the most impressive feat, as Yahoo! Sports' Shane Bacon noted:
Also, Rory McIlroy just made a par on the 10th, which must feel like a quadruple-eagle for him on that hole.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) April 13, 2014
Another birdie on No. 11 had him back under par for the tournament and many, such as Bacon and ESPN's Justin Ray, began whispering about a potential legendary comeback:
Rory McIlroy birdies No. 11. His fourth in the last five holes. Two par-5s to go. This could get interesting.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) April 13, 2014
With Rory rolling: Rory McIlroy began the day 8 back. Jack Burke holds the 54-hole comeback record at 8 strokes (1956).— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 13, 2014
But Rory gonna' Rory.
At the Par 5 No. 13, which was home to three eagles and playing as the easiest hole on Sunday (at the time), McIlroy crushed his tee shot to within about 170 yards of the cup. But he inexplicably left his approach shot short and into the water, and instead of a potential eagle, he walked away with a painful bogey.
He responded with birdies on 14 and 16, but sandwiched another bogey on a Par 5 in between those at 15. Bacon summed things up:
Rory McIlroy bogeys 13 and 15, birdies 14 and 16. Between the pink hair, the amateur beating him and today, a weird week for him.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) April 13, 2014
Although McIlroy had yet to earn his first tournament win since 2012, he entered Augusta playing as well as anyone. He leaves, though, as one of the biggest enigmas on tour.
Will McIlroy win a major in 2014?
When things are going well, there is no one quite like the 24-year-old. His power off the tee and physical tools can be transcendent, but his lapses are frustrating. Whether it was a couple of three-putts that erased an otherwise tremendous first round, a dreadful 77 on Friday or dropping potentially four shots on the final Par 5's Sunday, McIlroy did a fantastic job at leaving onlookers wanting more.
Still, this is a two-time major winner at 24, and a potential top-10 finish at the Masters is somehow going to be regarded as a major disappointment.
That speaks volumes about McIlroy's talent, and as he continues to improve his middle and short games, his future will only continue to remain bright.