McIlroy displays resilience

After Masters disaster, contends in Kuala Lumpur

April 21, 2011|By Jeff Shain

According to one report out of Ireland, Rory McIlroy sacked out for 11 hours of his flight home from Malaysia.

Little wonder. In the 61/2 days since losing his grip on a Masters green jacket, the 21-year-old pro had logged 10,000 miles just to get to Kuala Lumpur, endured a brush with lost clubs, shared the 36-hole lead and wound up third.

Yet in his inability to stave off Matteo Manassero, it didn't take long for some to question whether his Augusta National jackknife had scarred McIlroy.

Answer: Nothing a good night's sleep can't resolve. Preferably, a week or so to decompress as it became apparent over the course of McIlroy's 27-hole Sunday that fatigue was setting in.

"I'm proud of the way I picked myself up from (Augusta)," McIlroy told reporters. "I'm just disappointed with the result."

There's a reason so many top players take the week off after a major, unless the next stop has some personal meaning. The added stress that comes with contending gets magnified down the back nine at Augusta or any major venue.

Consider that the PGA Tour has had just nine back-to-back winners in the last seven-plus seasons — all by Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh. Outside that Hall-worthy trio, you have to go back to Kenny Perry at the 2003 Colonial and Memorial.

McIlroy required 30 hours to reach Kuala Lumpur from Augusta. His clubs took longer — so no practice round. Weather delays caused the first and third rounds to carry over to the next day.

When McIlroy took a two-shot lead into the final day it was off a half-finished round. Manassero had the lead by the 54-hole checkpoint, and a double bogey from a plugged bunker lie at No.12 dulled the impact of McIlroy's six birdies in the final loop.

Manassero, by the way, isn't exactly a journeyman.

The Italian turned 18 Tuesday with two European Tour victories in his portfolio. In 2009, he was the British Amateur's youngest champion.

Meantime, McIlroy gets two weeks to rest — and to process — before defending his Quail Hollow title. His putting could use work because he has had a tendency to miss left in key moments.

But don't forget he's just 21. He's seventh in the world rankings, with plenty of learning curve ahead. And he doesn't have to look far to see meltdowns turn positive.

Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney both coughed up three-shot leads at majors last year with rounds in the 80s. Within months, both had significant victories — in the FedEx Cup playoffs and at Doral, respectively.

There's no reason McIlroy can't bounce back similarly. Just let him catch his breath.

jshain@tribune.com

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