AUGUSTA, Ga. – The world’s No. 1 player and the other who was trying to complete the career grand slam could get nothing going in their pursuit of the leaders in Sunday’s final round of the 80th Masters.
Rory McIlroy, winner of the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship, started the day 2-over, five shots behind third-round leader Jordan Spieth but within range of a challenge.
Instead, McIlroy bogeyed three of the first five holes to take himself out of contention, another in a short list of poor final-round performances at Augusta National Golf Club. He shot a 1-under 71 to finish 1-over 289.
“This is the one that I haven’t won and this is the one I want to win more than anything else,” he said. “I won a Claret Jug, I want to win more. I won a Wanamaker, I won the U.S. Open, but this is the one that I haven’t.
“Once I overcome that mental hurdle that I’m struggling with at the minute, then I know how to play this course, I’ve played this course very well before, and I can string good rounds together here, but it’s just a matter of doing it.”
Day, winner of two consecutive tournaments and occupier of the top slot in the world golf rankings, started the round at even par, three behind Spieth. He shot 1-over 73 to finish 1-over 289.
It was thought that if anyone could put heat on Spieth, it would be Day because he played the first nine at 8-under in the first three rounds. But he couldn’t score on Sunday, playing them in par.
“I came out and I just didn’t feel quite comfortable with my swing,” Day said. “And when you’re not quite comfortable with your swing and obviously you start thinking about it rather than trying to just get up there and look at the target and hit at it. It’s hard to kind of get anything going from there once you do that.”
McIlroy said during the week that he was going to try to not get caught up in the pursuit of the slam.
He said it again Friday night after moving into second place at 3 under and into a Saturday pairing with Spieth, the leader.
Perhaps a new approach is needed after carding a 5-over 77 on Saturday.
Sunday didn’t start much better. McIlroy drove right on No. 1, missed the green to the right with his approach, and then two-putted for bogey.
Needing to at least birdie the par-5 second hole to make up for his mistakes on No. 1, McIlroy instead drove it into the bunker – costing an opportunity for an eagle – and then hit his third shot into another bunker, costing a solid chance at birdie.
He birdied No. 3 after driving the green, but gave that away by hitting his tee shot on the par-3 fourth hole into the bamboo behind the green. He salvaged a bogey but was running out of holes to make a move. His momentum continued to go the wrong way with a bogey on No. 5.
He scratched out birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 to make the turn at par, leaving him too few holes to scare the leaders.
Spieth’s playing partner on Sunday was Smylie Kaufman, who entered the final round one shot off the lead. That meant a fair amount of TV time early in Sunday’s broadcast. And if you looked carefully, you might have spotted Kaufman’s caddie, Aaron Alpern of Buffalo.
Alpern even wore a Buffalo Sabres T-shirt under his white caddie uniform. Alpern is a 1996 graduate of Nichols School and previously caddied on tour for Jason Kokrak before switching over to Kaufman, a PGA Tour rookie.
Kaufman, a Georgia native who played golf at Louisiana State University, shot a final-round 81 and went from second place to a tie for 29th.
Davis Love III, Shane Lowry and Louis Oosthuizen all aced the 16th hole Sunday – with Oosthuizen’s shot actually bumping into that of his playing partner, J.B. Holmes, as it spun toward the hole. Holmes’ ball also skirted the left side of the cup after being struck by Oosthuizen’s, but his would not have counted had it gone in.
It was the first time in Masters history there had been three holes-in-one on a single hole in a single round. Oosthuizen and Love hit 7-irons, Lowry an 8-iron.