With just nine holes to play, and a four-stroke lead, Rory McIlroy was supposed to be embarking on a nice victory lap on his way to claiming his first green jacket.
The hole called Camellia had different ideas. It is the 10th hole of this iconic course, and it is fraught with danger.
McIlroy took to the tee and stared down a narrow fairway lined with pine trees. Fans have come to know that section of the course as "The Pipe."
It proved to be far too narrow for Rory. McIlroy rocketed the ball off the tee, but that drive took a disastrous left turn and struck the last pine tree with authority.
His shot bounded off the tree in a direct line taking it as far away from the fairway as possible. The ball came to rest between two cabins, and the errant drive destroyed McIlroy.
He jacked his third shot on No. 10 in a similar fashion to his tee shot. He went on to pick up a triple bogey. He bogeyed the par-four 11th and then doubled the par-three 12th.
By then, his chance of becoming the youngest Masters champ since Tiger had vanished and gave way to question of just how ugly his collapse would get.
Rory held it together to play the remaining six holes at just one-over, but the damage was done. He shot a 43 on the back, which gave him a final-round score of 80. The man who began the back nine with a four-stroke lead ended the tournament tied for 15th.
While the drive on No. 10 is clearly the spot where things fell off the cliff for McIlroy, according to him, it was just a matter of time before disaster struck. McIlroy admits he was not ready for the pressure that accompanies trying to win a major.
On the eve of the Masters, McIlroy talked to the press about his struggles.The New York Daily News' Hank Gola has the quote:
It was just how I approached the whole day. I went through it a million times. For me, it was trying to be too focused, too perfect. I was always looking at the ground. I was very insular.“My shoulders were a little bit like this,” he said, slumping them. “Sort of like I didn’t want the outside world to get in instead of embracing the situation and saying, ‘I’ve got a four-shot lead at the Masters; let’s enjoy this.’ That was the real difference.”
Tightness is not something the golf swing can withstand. Rory was way too tight and it showed in his results.
On No. 10 he turned over the ball far too quickly, and that resulted in the trajectory derailing spin. And, as any golfer on your local links can attest, one bad shot usually leads to another.
As frustration and anger sets in, it is natural to try even harder after a miss-hit, and that just leads to more tightness.
For the final nine holes of the 2011 Masters, Rory McIlroy wasn't any different than us novices trying to bully their ball around the course.