AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - Rory McIlroy stood slumped over on the 13th tee, head buried in the crook of his elbow. There was still golf left to be played, but for a long moment he didn’t move, as if he didn’t want to face further punishment from a course that had suddenly turned on him.
The collapse that began just a few holes earlier was now officially complete with a tee shot into the creek. The Masters that was his at the beginning of the day would belong to someone else.
And as he finally lifted his head, McIlroy looked for all the world like he wanted to cry.
“I realized then that I didn’t have a chance,” McIlroy said. “Once I hit that tee shot left on 13, I was done.”
The turnaround was as sudden as it was shocking. One moment, he’s poised to be the second youngest ever to win a green jacket; the next, he’s in desperate need of a hug.
Four shots up to start the day, he shot a fat 43 on a back nine that winner Charl Schwartzel got around in 32 strokes. The 80 he shot was 10 strokes higher than his score the day before, and 15 strokes more than his 65 in the first round.
His final round score was the worst of a third-round Masters leader since Ken Venturi in 1956. The lead he squandered was the biggest of a third-round leader in a major since Jean Van de Velde’s famous debacle at the British Open.
And it all started because he aimed just a bit too far left on the 10th hole.
“I felt really comfortable on that tee shot all week,” McIlroy said. “I just started it a little left.”
McIlroy was a stroke ahead when the tee shot that will live in Masters lore hit a tree down the left side of the 10th fairway and ricocheted toward some cabins that Augusta National members use to entertain friends and clients. It went so far off line that veteran golf writer Dan Jenkins said he had never seen anyone hit it there in the 61 Masters he has covered.
McIlroy managed to get his next shot into the fairway, but his fairway wood to the green went left and he hit a tree when he tried to pitch it close. When he finally managed to get the ball in the hole he had made a triple bogey that knocked him out of the lead, though not out of the tournament.
McIlroy took care of the rest with a 3-putt on the 11th hole and a disastrous 4-putt on No. 12 before the tee shot into the creek on 13 formally sealed his fate.
“For 63 holes I was leading this golf tournament. Just a couple of bad holes and …” McIlroy said, his voice trailing off.
The day began with promise for the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland, who was unflappable during the first three rounds. He relaxed with his buddies in their rented house and watched a rugby match on TV before heading over to Augusta National for a day that many thought would end with the coronation of golf’s newest rising star.