AUGUSTA, Georgia — For a pair billed to be the best double act at the Masters in years, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were a box office flop this week.
The two players who were touted to dominate the 76th edition of the tournament both departed early on Sunday as the battle for the green jacket, which goes to the winner of the Masters, carried on without them.
Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, came in with a two-over 74 that left him on five-over 293 for the tournament and set for the worst Masters finish of his professional career.
The 36-year-old American shared 22nd in 2004 for his worst Masters pro showing, his two-over 290 total that year and in 2003 level for his worst 72-hole Augusta pro total. As an amateur he was 41st on 293 in 1995 and missed the 1996 cut.
After snapping a 28-month win drought by capturing the US PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago, Woods has struggled in his quest to win his first major since the 2008 US Open.
McIlroy, a 22-year-old Northern Irish prodigy who won last year’s US Open after squandering a last-day Masters lead, settled for a closing 76 that, by coincidence, brought him level with Woods well down the field on 293.
Woods agreed that his surprising struggles on the course’s four par-5s, where he was only one under for the tournament compared to 15-under in 2010, had been crucial to his 18th Masters campaign.
“If I look back on the week, I played the par-5s atrociously,” he said. “This is a golf course you just have to dominate the par-5s and I did not do that at all this week.”
Woods has been working with coach Sean Foley on a drastic remodelling of his swing in order to accomodate the leg injuries that laid him low for much of last year.
But despite the triumph at Bay Hill, he feels that he has yet to fully assimilate what he is being asked to do.
“I get out there and I just don’t trust it at all,” he said. “I fall back into the same old patterns again, and I just need to do more reps (repititions). Thank God my short game was good this week and my putting was really good.”
“You’re not going to play well every week. Unfortunately it was this week for me.
“I had the wrong ball striking week at the wrong time. You know, just got to keep building, keep working and keep progressing.”
McIlroy, who will now turn his attentions to successfully defending the US Open crown he won so convincingly at Congressional Country Club in Washington last year, said that it had been “a disappointing weekend, just one of those things.”
“I played pretty well over the first couple days and then just came out on Saturday and really just didn’t have it that front nine, and that sort of killed me for the rest of the tournament.
“But I’ll come back next year and try my best again.
“Just got to go out to San Francisco and try to get another major.”