AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rory McIlroy tried to frame the final round of this Masters as a pressure cooker for Patrick Reed, his final-round partner who had never won a major championship. McIlroy, by contrast, has four majors — and therefore was more accustomed to what Sunday would bring.
But McIlroy, 28, never applied consistent pressure on Reed and, in fact, looked like the less experienced in such a situation. McIlroy’s closing 2-over-par 74 wasn’t the downright disaster of the 80 he turned in with a four-shot lead in 2011. But in the situation, it was indifferent — and featured a series of missed putts that turned out to be demoralizing.
“Of course it’s frustrating,” said McIlroy, who finished in a four-way tie for fifth at 9 under. “But it’s hard to take any positives from it right now. But at least I put myself in the position. That’s all I wanted to do.”
The first putt McIlroy hit that indicated he might have trouble with what is, essentially, the weakness of his game came at No. 2 — a five-footer for eagle. The ensuing birdie pulled him within a shot of Reed and masked the problem — but only for the moment.
McIlroy missed putts inside eight feet at the third, fifth and eighth for par and at the ninth for birdie.
“Just wasn’t quite as trusting as I was the first few days,” McIlroy said. “That made a big difference.”
Thus, McIlroy remains just a Masters title short of becoming the sixth player to win the career Grand Slam. He said his belief that he will do it was enhanced by this past week “100 percent.”
“I’ve played in two final groups in the last seven years,” McIlroy said. “I’ve had five top-10s. I play this golf course well. I just haven’t played it well enough at the right time.”
It’s not terribly unusual for Augusta National’s 16th hole to yield an ace, particularly on Sunday, when the pin is traditionally placed in a small swale just over the pond. Balls typically run up a slope and trickle back enough to fall into the hole.
This particular Sunday came a hole-in-one of a different sort. Charley Hoffman took a 7-iron that barely carried the bunker next to the hole, bounced right — and trickled in.
“It’s a great experience and a great feeling, and it’s something you’re thinking on that hole,” Hoffman said, “but not the way I did it.” . . .
Four-time Masters champ Tiger Woods, appearing here for the first time in three years following a series of back surgeries, had his best round of the week with a 69 on Sunday that left him 1 over for the tournament, tied for 32nd.
“I missed it,” Woods said. “I really did.”
Woods, 42, declined to reveal the specifics of his upcoming schedule. He has committed to play his Washington-area event — now called the National, which will be held the final weekend of June at TPC Potomac in Bethesda.
“Generally after this tournament I put away the clubs for a while,” Woods said. “I usually take three to four weeks off, throughout my entire career.” . . .
Jordan Spieth’s bogey at the final hole prevented him from matching the Masters record of 63. The two 63s, though, didn’t come in the final round. Nick Price’s 63 came in the third round in 1986, and Greg Norman opened the 1996 tournament with a 63. Neither Price nor Norman won the Masters in which he posted the record round.