Before the final round on Sunday, I was convinced that Rory McIlroy would win the Masters and would do so easily.
His front-nine 37 made me think that it would be more of a fight, but I still thought that he would win. Then, he hit a drive on the 10th hole in a spot that many people didn't know existed. That led to a triple-bogey.
After a bogey on 11 and a double on 12, McIlroy hooked his drive on the 13th hole in the water. His reaction to that drive was heartbreaking. The 13th is a good scoring hole—it was his last chance to get back in the tournament. When that ball splashed, we all saw his reaction; he knew that his chances were gone.
His final-round 80 was hard to watch, but he will bounce back from it.
McIlroy has 12 majors left until his 25th birthday. If he stays healthy, McIlroy will have at least two majors to his name by then.
With the exception of the Masters, he has finished in the top 10 in every major at least once. In 2010, he was T3 at both the British Open and the PGA Championship. His game is good enough to win any one of the majors.
What happened at Augusta was not a problem caused by a glitch in his swing; he simply wasn't used to that kind of stage. That is no longer a problem.
Looking at his statistics on the European Tour, there is one glaring weakness in his game. McIlroy hits only 56 percent of the fairways, good enough for 97th position on that tour.
Despite that, he ranks fifth in greens in regulation. He ranks 17th in driving distance, which makes missed fairways less relevant.
He also ranks in the top 20 in putting, which explains why his scoring average is seventh-best on that tour.
Had McIlroy won on Sunday, he would have been the second-youngest winner of the Masters of all time. Only Tiger Woods in 1997 was younger than McIlroy is now.
McIlroy would have been younger than Seve Ballesteros was in 1980. He would have been younger than Jack Nicklaus was in 1963. If McIlroy wins in 2012, he will still be younger than either of those players were when they first donned the green jacket.
Martin Kaymer is the youngest of the current major winners. He was just short of his 26th birthday when he won the PGA Championship in 2010.
McIlroy is just short of his 22nd birthday. He has time. Golfers that young just don't win major championships very often.
He is a special talent. Anyone who saw his final-round 62 to win at Quail Hollow in 2010 knows how good he is.
As painful as it was to experience, the 80 that McIlroy shot in the final round at Augusta will become a good thing.
Bobby Jones once said that he never learned anything from a tournament that he won. Great athletes don't let tough losses ruin them—they actually use them as positives.
Michael Jordan and his Bulls couldn't beat the Pistons before 1991. That year, they swept them, and became one of the best dynasties in sports history.
We remember the 2004 Red Sox. The team that was on the brink of elimination, down 0-3 to the Yankees. They tied the fourth game in the bottom of the ninth inning, won it in extra innings, and then won the next three games. They went on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series.
The year before, they lost a 5-0 lead in the seventh game of the American League Championship Series to that same Yankees team.
Those are just a few examples. Dozens of similar examples exist. Failure often leads to success.
Whether McIlroy will go down as an all-time great golfer remains to be seen. But he has the swing, and judging by his reactions to his final round, he has his head screwed on right. That's a pretty good start.