New Year, but Rory McIlroy is still fighting the final-group blues...

FEATURE: Just when will the final-group curse end for Rory McIlroy? 

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GOLF: New Year, but Rory McIlroy still fights the final-group blues...


There was little anyone could do to stop Xander Schauffele racing through the field with a course-record tying 11-under 62 and landing the Tournament of Champions, but Sunday marked the sixth consecutive time in 12 months that Rory McIlroy failed to convert a final grouping into a win.


McIlroy, 29, started the final round at Kapalua three strokes behind 54-hole leader Gary Woodland, but went on to shoot a lacklustre 1-under 72 to finish in a tie for fourth and eight strokes adrift of Schauffele. 

"I hit good shots and gave myself plenty of chances," said McIlroy, who last won on the PGA Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March 2018, incidentally coming from behind and in the penultimate group to win. "I hit good putts, it was just one of those days. I just didn't have it."


If truth be told, McIlroy hasn't had it for quite some time. Yes, he won at Bay Hill last March to get back in the saddle, but 2018 presented far too many falls at the final hurdle.

McIlroy, now the world number eight, does appear to be turning a corner at least from the inconsistencies of his winless 2017 campaign, but squandering the chance of a W heading into a final round now appears a recurring theme for the four-time major winner. 

In fact the last time McIlroy converted a final grouping into a win came in May 2016 when clinching his last European Tour title at the Irish Open.

When it comes to the PGA Tour, however, where McIlroy will base himself for the majority of 2019, you have to go back to May 2015 when he sprinted clear of the chasing pack for a seven-stroke win at the Wells Fargo Championship.


Of course, the most notable of the Ulsterman's last six final-group no-shows came at The Masters last April.

With the demons of his 2011 collapse (where he shot a final-round 80) still clearly somewhere on his mind, McIlroy - who trailed by three strokes entering Sunday - failed to put early heat on Reed and eventually stumbled to a 74 as he watched his playing partner collect the one title he so desperately craves in order to join golf's elite and lock up the career Grand Slam. 

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Other standout poor Sunday final-round performances from McIlroy last season came at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth - when he was the only player in the top seven not to break 70 - as the European Tour's eventual Race to Dubai champion Francesco Molinari landed the spoils in front of him. 

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McIlroy most recently also went backwards in the final group at the BMW Championship in September, despite shooting a 68 on a low day of scoring, and while he found himself in the penultimate group when signing Tiger Woods' victorious card at the Tour Championship, the Northern Irishman shot a round of 74 for the second worst score of the day at East Lake to finish tied seventh.

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With another disappointing final round in the books, McIlroy is looking to take the positives from his 69-68-68-72 showing at Kapalua where he teed up for the very first time in his career.

"It’s just something I’m going to have to be persistent with, keep putting myself in position," said McIlroy. "I’m going to go home, reflect on this week, what was good and what wasn't so good, and work on a few things. Overall it was a positive week."

Yes, a positive start to the New Year, but a familiar one too.