AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rory McIlroy has won two PGA Championships, one US Open and one British Open, but never the Masters. His best finish here had been fourth in 2015. But that was not his most notable Masters of him.
What he is best remembered for at Augusta National is his meltdown in 2011 as a 21-year-old, when he dropped from first place to a tie for 15th with a final round 80.
That memory now has company, pleasantly enough. McIlroy didn’t win the 2022 Masters, but he did provide the tournament with its most stunning shot, a magical sand wedge from a greenside bunker that trickled down the ridge of the 18th green and fell into the hole for a finishing birdie.
The unexpected theatrics gave McIlroy a bogey-free round of eight-under-par 64, matching the lowest final round in Masters history, and eventually ensured a second-place finish at seven-under, three strokes behind winner Scottie Schefflerthe No. 1 ranked golfer in the world.
“The only person that beat me this week is the guy that’s currently the best golfer in the world,” McIlroy said, “so I’m on the right track and I’m doing the right things and it was just nice to feel that buzz in a major championship again. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that.”
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On the 18th hole, McIlroy’s drive found a fairway bunker, then his second shot landed in a bunker to the right of the green.
Then came the third shot. When it disappeared into the cup, McIlroy tossed his club in delight, jumped, raised his arms, ran out of the bunker and hugged his caddy. The fans gathered around the 18th green leaped to their feet and roared as McIlory walked triumphantly on the green pumping his fist before reaching down to get his ball out of the hole and throw it into the crowd.
“That was incredible,” McIlroy said. “I’ve never heard roars like that on the 18th green. It was really cool.”
It was a fitting exclamation mark on a day that started with a birdie on the first hole and included an eagle on the par-5 13th.
“It’s what you dream about, right?” said McIlroy, 32. “You dream about getting yourself in position. I wasn’t quite close enough to the lead. Scottie is playing really, really well. To play as well as I did today and then to finish like this, I mean, it’s just absolutely incredible.”
McIlroy, who started the day at one-over, was finished an hour before Scheffler. He did several interviews, one before Scheffler was finished.
“I’ll probably come up a little bit short, but I gave it a great go, and I can’t ask any more of myself. I went out there today, shot my best-ever score at Augusta and it’s going to be my best finish ever.”
His joy was palpable. This was a wonderful moment for him, and he was soaking it all in.
“That,” he said, “is as happy as I’ve ever been on a golf course right there.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism