Rory McIlroy falls at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play semis

Rory McIlroy falls short at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas… but is in good shape just a fortnight away from the Masters in Augusta

  • Rory McIlroy lost his semi-final at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play 
  • Cameron Young made the final, while McIlroy faced Scottie Scheffler for third 
  • However, the Northern Irish golfer proved to be in good shape for the Masters 

Rory McIlroy lost his semi-final at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas last night but what he found in putting, driving and swagger might prove to be far more important.

With the Masters less than a fortnight away, McIlroy’s hopes for this tournament were always tied predominantly to the momentum he would be able to take on to Augusta.

For that reason, he was able to leave with a sense of satisfaction, despite his anger at surrendering a superb position against Cameron Young, whom he led by two with three to play before succumbing to a wonderous up-and-down by the American from 167 yards in the first hole of sudden death.

That denied McIlroy a final against Sam Burns, who upset Scottie Scheffler on the third extra hole of a corker, and it was also anti-climatic on the back of an impressive week. But those are localised concerns in the bigger picture of completing the career grand slam at the season’s first major.

Doing so in the company of Scheffler and Jon Rahm would be awfully tough at the best of times, and based on how McIlroy missed the cut at the Players Championship a fortnight ago, the distinct fear was that his exceptional form of the past year had disappeared at precisely the wrong moment.

Cameron Young (L) defeated Rory McIlroy in the semi-finals of the WGC Match Play in Texas

McIlroy proved himself to be in good shape less than two weeks away from the Masters

However, if we are judge from his play at Austin Country Club, the changes the world No 3 subsequently made to his equipment – a return to the model of putter with which he won his first two majors and a new shaft in his driver – seem to have rapidly corrected his issues at both ends of the bag. With five straight wins, including 17 birdies in 36 holes on Saturday and a useful habit of nailing those crucial putts of around six feet, most concerns have been addressed in what was his final tournament before Augusta.

And yet the loss to Young did hurt McIlroy, not only because his level was a little lower than the day before, but also because of the proximity to victory. He fell behind with a bogey at three, but rebounded with birdies at five, six and nine to lead by two at the turn. His round stuttered with a hook into water for bogey six at 12, but he restored the gap at the next and was comfortable until Young birdied 16.

McIlroy faced Scottie Scheffler, the loser of the other semi-final, in a battle for third place

Young also birdied the 18th to force sudden death, where his luck was out when his drive at the 12th rolled up against the lip of the fairway bunker. He chipped out to leave 167 yards and then superbly launched his third to nine feet. McIlroy, who had made it adjacent to the green in two, chipped to a similar distance, but while Young sank his, the Northern Irishman’s drifted by.

‘I’m obviously feeling pretty bad,’ said McIlroy. ‘Cam played great. He made a hell of a birdie there (on the play-off hole) after getting an unlucky break with the tee shot.

‘I just didn’t do enough over those last four holes to close him out and when you don’t do that and you’re up against a player of Cam’s calibre that’s what’s going to happen.’

The defeat meant McIlroy facing Scheffler in a play-off for third on Sunday night.

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