Rory McIlroy suffers early exit at Match Play, turns attention to Masters

March 24, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Call it a lost week in Texas in an already unusual year for Rory McIlroy.

The four-time major champion from Northern Ireland lost his opening round at the Dell Technologies Match Play, then lost any chance of advancing when Gary Woodland withdrew from the group a day later for what was described as a personal family matter. That move guaranteed Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen would win the group and McIlroy would be shut out of the knockout stages.

So what’s the world No. 2 to do? Time to look ahead to the Masters.

On Friday morning, McIlroy teed off against Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and they splashed their way around a soggy Austin Country Club for a meaningless 18 holes. Even that was a dull affair as they halved the match before making their getaway for the weekend. McIlroy had played no fewer than seven matches in this tournament the previous two years and won it in 2015.

“Emiliano and I were just like, ‘What do we do?’ Walking up 18, we could have just called it a half and not even bothered,” McIlroy said. “It is odd whenever you have nothing to play for. I guess that’s both our faults. We didn’t win our matches on the first day. If it had been the old format, I would have already been home.”

The weird week in Austin was just another odd chapter for him in 2017.

He’s played only 14 official rounds of golf this year because a hairline fracture in a rib sidelined him for seven weeks. After Woodland withdrew, McIlroy sat out Thursday’s matches and watched the rest of the field battle winds that saw gusts top 30 mph.

McIlroy was glad to not be facing the same conditions, but it was one less round of golf with the Masters just two weeks away. McIlroy won’t change his plan to skip the Houston Open just to get in some extra play.

Georgia beckons.

“The injury hasn’t been ideal to start the year, but I’ve played Houston before and I never felt like it did anything for me,” McIlroy said. “I’d rather go up to Augusta, play a couple of quiet practice rounds, and then prepare at home and great ready to play.”

McIlroy said he’s felt good about his game the few times he’s been in competition this year.

“Every time I’ve played, I played well,” he said. “I think I was 7-under for the two rounds I played here. Speaking to Sergio (Garcia) after the first day, if I had played Sergio I would have beat him 6 and 5 and Soren beat me 2 and 1. So it is what it is.”