I Rewatched Every Shot Of Rory McIlroy's Masters Disaster. Here's What Went Wrong...

The four-time Major winner is heading home after a disastrous couple of days at Augusta National

Five images of Rory McIlroy at the 87th Masters
(Image credit: Future)

Rory McIlroy is heading home early from the 87th Masters after what can only be described as a disastrous first two days at Augusta National.

After his Dubai Desert Classic win in January, where he sensationally birdied the 72nd hole to beat Patrick Reed by one, if you told me that he'd comfortably miss the cut at TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National, his two biggest events of the year up until now, I wouldn't have believed you.

McIlroy came into the week playing great golf after rediscovering his form at the WGC-Match Play, which can be put down to a number of factors including a different format and some equipment changes that included a new putter.

Yet, when push came to shove, and the chance of a Green Jacket was once again on offer, McIlroy simply folded.

Having rewatched every shot of his first two rounds, which included 10 bogeys and a double, it was clear to see where he was lacking. The Northern Irishman appeared to make some odd decisions, hit a fair few bad shots, lacked the mental grit that you perhaps need to put a score together around Augusta (see Tiger Woods), and then crucially his putting let him down.

Round One

McIlroy opened with a level-par 72, which on the face of it wasn't the worst of starts to his grand slam attempt. Saying that though, getting off to a good start at Augusta can never go amiss and he was, in his own words, "untidy" on Thursday. Untidy doesn't quite get it done when Brooks Koepka shoots out the gates with a 65.

He birdied the 2nd to get off to a lovely start but then showed some untidiness straight away. The 3rd is a 350-yard par 4 and both days he hit excellent drives up the left (where the ball is inevitably going to finish due to the slopes) to leave tricky pitches. He bogeyed it both days. Perhaps an iron is the play there in the future.

Tiger Woods bogeyed it on day one after hitting a driver. Next day? He hit iron and made an easy par.

The lowlight of Rory's opening round was a double bogey on the 7th. Both days he went left and he actually played the hole three-over for his opening two rounds. Instead of laying up with his second shot in round one, he blasted it over the back to leave a supremely difficult flop shot over the bunker. He duffed it, hit a decent bunker shot and then missed a five-footer for bogey.

For someone who has played in 15 Masters tournaments and has spent plenty of time at the course already this year, I have to question why he didn't lay up and why he was putting himself in such a difficult position. Pitch it out to your favorite yardage, wedge it close and give yourself a good look at par. All the greats know where you can't miss it at Augusta, but somehow it doesn't quite show that Rory knows that yet.

A great birdie followed at the 8th and an even better one came at the 10th to get him back to level before a three-putt on the 11th. Again for a man who has played umpteen practice rounds at Augusta this year, it certainly didn't show. His long putt on 11 came up miles short and it was an inevitable three-putt.

That dropped him to one-over and two excellent birdies at 15 and 16 were followed by a bogey at the 17th, where his putter let him down again, before parring the 18th for a 72.

Round Two

Day two was where things really got out of hand and McIlroy's early exit was confirmed, despite plenty of players still left to complete their second rounds due to the weather delays that resulted in three large pine trees falling down near patrons.

McIlroy got off to a horrendous start with a poor bogey on the 2nd, where his approach was far too aggressive on the par 5 after having to lay up from the fairway bunker off the tee. Was this evidence that he was pushing too hard, too early? 

He then bogeyed the very next hole as previously mentioned. His drive was even better than his first day's and his bogey was even more painful. Stop hitting driver on the 3rd, please Rory.

From there it went from bad to worse, albeit on the par 3 4th we saw a delightful chip shot to save his par. McIlroy's short game is truly stunning at times and his chipping was very good this week, it has to be said.

The 6th hole was quite bizarre. His tee shot missed the top-right section as many do and he raced his putt from down the hill miles past the hole and made an easy bogey after finding the green in regulation. Of course it was no easy two-putt, but this is not a regular golfer we're talking about here, this is the World No.2 who has been at Augusta numerous times already this year and played umpteen practice rounds. Just odd. If you want to win The Masters, you can't be giving away easy bogeys like that.

He bogeyed the 7th as well, one better than on day one, where his putter once again let him down. Four-over after seven holes at this point.

Another dropped shot came at the 11th, for the second day in a row, where he pulled his approach left, resulting in a penalty stroke. As his ball was sailing left into the rubbish, this was where you really saw McIlroy's shoulders drop. A wry smile told us all we needed to know. We've seen it before, McIlroy was beaten.

Rory McIlroy hits a bad iron shot

His second shot on 11 was really where you could see his shoulders drop

(Image credit: masters.com)

From there he made an excellent bogey thanks to a brilliant putt - where had this been all day? It was perhaps some evidence that, without the pressure, he would eat up Augusta. Winning around here is only going to get tougher as the years go on.

We then got to see McIlroy playing without the pressure, and he made a great par save on 12 from the bunker, made the easiest of birdies on the 13th and then stuck his 2nd shot on the 15th to about five feet! If he holed it, he'd have got back to three-over and well within a chance of making the cut, but the eagle putt slid by. 

Some 20 minutes later he was then four-over again after missing a three-footer on 16, failing to capitalise on an another magical chip shot after missing the green long/left. On that, a lot of his iron shots went left this week on swings that looked like he was trying to play a fade. A nice one-yard fade is a deadly weapon at Augusta with your irons and McIlroy did not possess that this week.

He then pushed his tee shot on 18 and made a routine bogey to shoot 77 - his worst round at Augusta since 2016.


Having rewatched every shot, there were a number of patterns to see with McIlroy's game and parts that just simply weren't working.

His driver was going left quite a bit. His irons were also going left fairly regularly. He looked to try and play fades with his irons and multiple times double-crossed them to go long, left.

His putting was simply not up to scratch and he continued to miss those must-make, momentum-saving putts.

And his mental game and even course management. For the World No.2, playing in his 15th Masters after multiple visits to the course so far this year and practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday - it just didn't show that he was a course specialist. Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer - they know how to get it round Augusta. Does McIlroy? It didn't look like it.

He found himself 17 strokes shy of Brooks Koepka after two rounds, 13 behind the amateur Sam Bennett, four back of 63-year-old Fred Couples who hasn't made a Masters cut since 2018 and even nine back of Phil Mickelson - whose best finish in ten 48-man field LIV events has been 8th.

Advice for next year? Perhaps don't go for multiple Augusta visits prior to tournament week as it clearly didn't help him this year. And he could take a leaf out of Tiger's book and go round the course with just a few wedges and a putter on the Monday of tournament week. A few irons off the tee wouldn't hurt too - especially on the 3rd.

Rory McIlroy Masters

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The pressure is only going to ramp up next year in what will be his tenth shot at the career grand slam. The Northern Irishman is under the spotlight more than any golfer not named Tiger Woods. Every pundit, fan and their dog was picking him to win this week. And we're not forensically going through anyone else's missed cut, are we? That's something he needs to block out as we've seen time and time again that when the pressure is off, he can bring Augusta to its knees.

One thing has to be said though, a Masters weekend is worse off without Rory. It's a huge shame to see him missing the cut at Augusta for only the third time in his career, and he will be greatly missed this weekend.

But we've seen him bounce back from low moments plenty of times in the past. This could just be the impetus that gives him a boost to win Major No.5. In fact, I think it probably will be.

Another thing I noticed was the way he handled himself. This would have been absolutely devastating but we didn't see much frustration, hear any swearing or see anything unprofessional. A true role model for younger golfers.

He'll be back.

What Next?

The good news for Rory is that the golf world moves on quickly and in just five weeks' time he has another shot at winning his fifth Major, and it comes at a venue he knows very well.

McIlroy will be among the favorites to win his third PGA Championship at Oak Hill, where he is a member. A month later it's the US Open at LACC, which he checked out during the week of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in February, before the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

The Northern Irishman sealed his first and only (to date) Claret Jug at Hoylake in 2014, when the club last hosted The Open.

A week to forget for Rory, but hopefully he can get bounce back and win another Major over the summer so we can all forget about it, too.

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV