AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — On almost any other Sunday, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy playing together in the final round of the Masters would have been the marquee pairing.
On this one, though, they might as well have been competing in the B-flight.
As far as bragging rights in the head-to-head matchup, McIlroy trounced Woods both ways. He won the day 66-73, and the week by a similarly wide margin, 12-under to 5-under.
Not that it mattered much, as 21-year-old winner Jordan Spieth steamrolled the rest of the field, too, rolling to a record-tying 18-under win.
“Just left myself too much to do after 27 holes of this golf tournament,” McIlroy said. “The 40 on the front nine on Friday, that really left me with an uphill battle. It was just great to get in for the weekend.”
Oddly enough, McIlroy’s fourth-place finish was his best ever at Augusta, though he had to play the last 45 holes in 15-under to manage that. The Northern Irishman led the Masters as a 21-year-old heading into the back nine on Sunday in 2011, but made triple bogey on No. 10 and skidded into a tie for 15th.
Woods collected his first green jacket as a 21-year-old in 1997, posting the same 18-under record Spieth threatened to surpass before a bogey at the 18th. But little was expected from Woods in only his third appearance this year. He missed the cut at Phoenix in his first appearance of 2015 and then, beset by chipping woes and tightness in his back, he withdrew in the first round at Torrey Pines.
Woods figured he’d have to shoot 31 on the front nine to have a chance to contend, but he didn’t find the fairway with a tee shot until No. 13. Unfortunately, that was emblematic of his week, since Woods finished tied for next-to-last in fairways hit.
An errant drive on No. 9 left him playing off the pine straw beneath a stand of trees, but it was almost more costly than that. After launching his approach shot, he dropped his club and clutched his right hand in pain. Woods said that he struck a tree root hidden by the straw.
“A bone kind of popped out and the joint kind of went out of place, but I put it back in,” Woods said.
“I’m sore,” he added a few moments later. “I’m not going to be lifting any weights for a little while.”
For all that, and despite finishing tied for 17th, Woods found plenty to be upbeat about. His short game was solid and rounds of 69 and 68 on Friday and Saturday marked the first time in 10 years that he posed back-to-back rounds in the 60s at the Masters. They were also his best consecutive scores in a major since 2012.
“No one knows how hard we had to work to get to this point, but I’m very pleased,” Woods said. “This is my first tournament back, being a major championship, and to give myself a chance, it felt good.”
McIlroy, the world’s top-ranked player and three-time major winner, arrived in Augusta with a chance to complete the career Grand Slam. He said his 71 in the opening round gave him plenty of hope he could seal the deal here — and might have except “the start on Friday was really what killed me.
“But as you’ve seen over the last 45 holes, again, there I’m playing very nicely,” McIlroy said. “It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
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