From the archive: A look back at the final day of the 2011 U.S. Masters

The US Masters – which was supposed to be the first major golf tournament of the year – has been postponed until October 30th due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is still leading the way in the US Masters market – the only major to elude the current World Number One – if you’re looking for a bet on golf. Since, McIlroy is favourite to win the tournament at Augusta National, it is worth having a look back at his Masters meltdown in 2011.

The County Down native went into the final day of the tournament destined to win his first major and become the second-youngest golfer to get fitted into the famous green jacket. However, McIlroy, who was then only 21 years old, shot eight over par, which saw him spiral down the leaderboard to 15th and 10 strokes behind eventual winner Charl Schwartzel.

The now four-time Major winner went back into the clubhouse in the lead after each of the opening three rounds and teed off in the final pairing on the Sunday morning with a four-shot advantage, but his nerves were apparent. McIlroy dropped a shot straight away on the first hole – sending his second shot long of the green before failing to get down in two and, therefore, dropping to 11-under.

The early pressure from Schwartzel, who tied with McIlroy on 11-under after just three holes, didn’t help the youngster’s nerves and he dropped another shot on the fifth hole. A birdie on the seventh sent the Northern Irishman back into the lead, but you could see it wasn’t a comfortable one.

As if the pressure from the South African and his partner Angel Cabrera, who were hot on his tail, wasn’t already enough for McIlroy, Tiger Woods was also rocketing up the leaderboard. Woods, who started the round on five-under, had the Augusta crowd roaring as he shot four birdies and an eagle to move within one stroke of the 21-year-old.

The Ulsterman’s descent started early in the back nine with an agonising triple-bogey at the 10th hole. McIlroy’s homeland support watched through their fingers as he sent his tee shot into the woodland, leaving him no other option than a short pitch back to the fairway. His third stroke desperately needed to hit the green but it faded left. As his chip struck a tree and he failed to get up and down, you could tell this was all too much for the 21-year-old.

McIlroy’s afternoon only got worse, another bogey followed on the 11th, before a horrific four-putt meant that he double-bogeyed the 12th. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for the youngster, who was almost in tears, when his tee shot on the 13th landed in the creek.

With McIlroy now out of the picture, attention turned to who would go on to win the prestigious tournament. Geoff Ogilvy, Woods, who couldn’t keep up his front nine momentum, and Luke Donald all posted 10-under rounds. Australian’s Adam Scott and Jason Day seemed to be in with a shout after finishing on 12-under.

However, Schwartzel found his stride at the perfect time, birdying the last four holes to send himself two shots clear of Scott and Day, and in the process become Masters champion.

“This was my first experience of it,” McIlroy said after his meltdown. “Hopefully, next time I’m in this position, I’ll be able to handle it a little better.” The current World Number One didn’t have to wait long for his Major – winning the U.S. Open two months later.