CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA | When the Masters was over and Rory McIlroy was left to cope with the disappointment of shooting 74 on Sunday when he had a chance to complete the career Grand Slam, it took a few days.
“I went back home and sort of decompressed, binge-watched a couple of shows, read a couple of books, drank a few bottles of wine,” McIlroy said. “No, I don’t mean like that. That sounds really bad. It wasn’t that bad.”
But it took a few days before McIlroy emerged from his funk. Having started the final round three strokes behind leader Patrick Reed, McIlroy had a chance to tie for the lead on the second hole but missed a 4-foot eagle putt. From there, it seemed his day unraveled.
While Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler made moves at Reed, McIlroy drifted into the shadows. It wasn’t as devastating as his Sunday collapse at Augusta in 2011, but it was discouraging.
McIlroy caught up on the television series Billions and read two books, The Chimp Paradox and Essentialism. At the encouragement of his wife, Erica, McIlroy got back to work about two weeks ago, finding the positives on which to build.
“I was disappointed because I just didn’t give a good account of myself the last day,” McIlroy said. “I felt I got lucky on Saturday. That 65 was as good as I could have played. … I was sort of holding it together. Then obviously under the pressure of Sunday trying to chase Patrick down, it just never quite clicked for me.”
McIlroy had an idea of what to expect going to the first tee on Sunday where it was obvious he was the crowd favorite. He was surprised, however, when some Augusta members let him know they were pulling for him.
“I got to the first tee and it was like, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool,’ ” McIlroy said. “Even the guys on the first tee at Augusta, the members are saying, ‘We would love to have dinner with you tonight,’ and that stuff. I was like, ‘It’s nice but don’t be ordering me anything just yet.’ ”
While McIlroy’s attention has turned to this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, the Players Championship and a busy summer, the Masters remains the one he wants to win but not just because it would make him just the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam.
“The Masters has now become the biggest golf tournament in the world and I’m comfortable saying that,” McIlroy said. “I don’t care about the U.S. Open or the Open Championship. It’s the biggest tournament in the world, the most amount of eyeballs, the most amount of hype. The most amount of everything is at Augusta.
“For me, it’s the most special tournament that we play and it’s the one everyone wants to win, but even if I was going for my first major, it’s tough to win. I thought Patrick did a fantastic job on Sunday holding it together because he didn’t have his best stuff but he made a couple of key putts coming in which helped him.
“I don’t think the Grand Slam, that’s not really what I think about. I just think about trying to win the Masters and what that means and being able to go up and use the champions locker room, just all the cool stuff that comes along with it.”