'I just couldn't get the ball to drop' - McIlroy tries to stay positive
Rory McIlroy's latest final-round reverse was a timely reminder of the X-factor that helped Pádraig Harrington slay the demons that threatened to haunt him forever - implacable will.
The 29-year-old failed to spark in the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and came away empty-handed from the final group for the seventh time in a row in the space of 12 months.
With his new putter ice-cold all day - the longest putt he made in a 33-putt round was a four-and-a-half footer for par at the 11th - the world number eight signed for a pedestrian, one-under-par 72 that left him eight strokes behind golf's newest X-Man superhero, Xander Schauffele.
Refusing to beat himself up, McIlroy said: "My attitude was much better today, I didn't press at all, I was very patient, it's just something I'm going to have to persist with, just keep putting myself in these positions.
"And, honestly, I don't think anyone could have beaten Xander today. I would have had to have gone out there and shot nine-under par.
"Obviously I could have shot a better score, but I did what I wanted to do. I gave myself plenty of chances, I hit most of the fairways, I hit most of the greens, just couldn't get the ball to drop."
While McIlroy would have needed a 64 to win as Schauffele carded a course-record equalling 62 to clinch his fourth, come-from-behind PGA Tour win in 18 months, the Holywood ace quickly took a leaf out of the book of mental self-defence of the Ryder Cup captain-elect.
"So long as I am learning, I am OK," Harrington said after the 24th of the 29 second-place finishes he recorded before winning the first of his three Majors in 2007.
"If you put your neck on the block often you will suffer failure often."
McIlroy spoke on the eve of the final round in Hawaii of his determination not to fall in the same trap that saw him come up empty-handed from six final-group appearances in 2018.
But while he avoided the temptation to press "too early", he lacked the crucial cutting edge on the greens he showed in winning at Bay Hill last year and ended up tied for fourth.
While he cut Gary Woodland's three-shot overnight lead to two strokes after three holes, that was as close as he got after another lacklustre day with the blade.
While it's not quite a case of back to the drawing board for the Co Down man, he admitted he needed time off to "reflect on what was good and what maybe wasn't so good", adding that he would definitely play again before the Genesis Open at Riviera from February 14-17 but had yet to decide where.
Accentuating the positives, especially his repertoire of feel shots, he said: "I think this week I showed a little more versatility in my game."