Rory McIlroy began the final day of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in second place and in contention for the first trophy of the new year.
Unfortunately he shot a final round of 72 to finish tied fourth as Xander Schauffele’s amazing 11-under-par 62 saw the American claim the prize.
For McIlroy there was one aspect to blame for his falling away in Hawaii. His frustration with putting is getting to him and holding him back.
For a player of his quality, who is playing well away from the greens, it’s hugely annoying. It becomes a case of the harder you try the less you seem to hole.
He just needs to find something to improve his putting – that seems to be all that’s wrong at the moment.
McIlroy actually outplayed final day leader Gary Woodland for the first seven or eight holes but he couldn’t convert and it drifted away for him.
Take the positives
There were six occasions last year in which McIlroy found himself in the last group in the final round and didn’t win, so he’ll be disappointed to continue the trend.
I don’t think it’s a mental problem – it’s just one of these things with golf and it won’t get him down. He just needs the putts to start rolling it and these narrow misses will turn into wins.
You can’t play that well and not have good confidence. It’s only the first tournament of the year, so I hope he takes the positives out of it.
In the event, even if he’d been sinking putts, it might not have been enough as Schauffele was outstanding, posting a course-record to beat Woodland by a single stroke.
The American shot a bogey on the first hole and missed an eight-foot putt for eagle on the last, so it could have been even better, remarkably.
Schauffele has shown a lot of class over the last couple of years and is clearly on the up. It’s almost gratifying for Woodland, to know that it took a performance that good to beat him.
McIlroy, who lives in the US and is married to an American, has decided to move away from the European Tour and focus on the PGA Tour in 2019.
The 29-year-old feels it’s time for him to settle down and stop going back and forth across the Atlantic, which isn’t easy. He has to focus on what’s best for his career, so this could be exactly what he needs.
I think it’s the right move and it could prove to be a significant one. It will allow him to spend more time with his family and less time travelling.
Being on tour is enjoyable most of the time, but it does take its toll and as you get older you need to juggle more considerations.
Happiness is a big factor in playing successful golf. You only need to look at the example of Sergio Garcia: he got married, had a child and won a first Masters title all in quick succession.
Let’s hope this decision can be the turning point for McIlroy. He’s been trying to support the European Tour, which been a big part of his life, but it’s time to move on.
McIlroy will still play on the European Tour. So far he has committed to playing two events and will of course be back next year when he needs points for Ryder Cup selection.
With the four Majors finished by 22 July it is important to start the year in form and if he can get past his putting woes McIlroy will certainly be in contention.