McIlroy needs to bounce back
Published 11/04/2011 | 14:37
Not since Jean Van de Velde crumbled in front of our eyes has anyone thrown away a bigger lead in a major than the four-shot one Rory McIlroy had at The Masters.
But while one suspected at the time that it would be the Frenchman's one and only chance for greatness nobody will be writing off the 21-year-old Northern Irishman.
You simply don't get to be in the world's top 10 without being enormously talented and to achieve it at the age he has the sky remains the limit.
But that is not to say he can simply brush off his 80 as "just a bad day at the office" and move on believing that when the next opportunity arises things will turn out differently.
The fact is that while it was shocking to see McIlroy totally collapse in the way he did - he lost by 10 incredibly - it was no great surprise that he did not finish off a job he had started so well.
A year into his professional career the Holywood golfer was also four ahead with 18 holes to play at the 2008 European Masters and lost to little-known Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin by missing from two feet in their play-off.
After that his win in Dubai the following February came as a huge relief, but from six clear with six to go he had four bogeys in a row and had to get up and down from a bunker at the last to squeeze home.
Nobody could fail to be impressed, though, by the way he then stormed to his first victory in America last May. After a late eagle enabled him to survive the cut he shot 66-62 to beat Phil Mickelson no less by four.
But a week later he did miss the cut in the Players Championship, a month later he crashed out of the US Open and after starting The Open with a major championship record-equalling 63 his next round was another 80.
Although a near-unplayable wind contributed to that, the youngster admits it got to him more than it should have.
He could chalk that up as another part of the learning process and now he has another even harsher experience to be reflected upon and hopefully learnt from.
You hate to see a young man's dream dashed in such a public way, but his time in the paid ranks has been a rollercoaster ride - some great highs, some terrible lows - and that may have to continue for a while.
His long game is a thing of beauty most of the time, so the hook off the 10th tee that sent him into freefall must have been a real shock to his system.
But his putting when it really matters has question marks over it. The good thing is that time is on his side. The bad is that few top players become better putters the older they get.
Just look at Tiger Woods.