(Reuters) – Rory McIlroy managed something nobody has done since Tiger Woods two decades ago but that was scant consolation to the Northern Irishman after a mediocre final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida on Sunday.
World number one McIlroy was the man to beat, starting the day two strokes behind England’s overnight leader Tyrrell Hatton, but two quick double-bogeys late on the front nine all but ended his chances at Bay Hill in Orlando.
In shooting four-over-par 76 and finishing equal fifth, four strokes behind winner Hatton, the Northern Irishman reinforced the notion that for all his explosive brilliance he is just as likely to blow cold as hot on final-round Sundays.
“Two loose shots cost me,” McIlroy said after racking up his seventh straight top-five finish on the PGA Tour, something nobody has managed since Tiger Woods in 2000. That stretch includes a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions four months ago.
“I stood up here yesterday and said the key was to keep the big numbers off the card and I made two (big numbers) today.”
There was few signs early on that it would not turn out well for McIlroy, until he dropped two shots at the par-five sixth, after firing his third shot from a greenside bunker into rocks beyond the green from where he had to take a penalty stroke.
Things went from bad to worse at the par-four ninth when he pulled his drive out-of-bounds for another double and, though there were no more dropped shots on the back nine, the damage had been done.
McIlroy will have little time to lick his wounds before preparing for this week’s Players Championship.
He is defending champion at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedre Beach, where last year he ended a similarly frustrating stretch of early year near-misses.
“There is a lot of similarity between the start of this year and the start of last year, of chances and not converting but knowing the game is pretty much there,” he said.
“I’ll keep knocking on the door.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)