April 10, 2011
Rory McIlroy, the 54-hole leader at Augusta, made the turn on Sunday at 11-under, just 1-over for the day. Sure, the field had narrowed, with everyone from Adam Scott to Tiger Woods making a run, but McIlroy still owned the show.
Then came Camellia, the 430-yard downhill par-4 which has always played as the hardest hole on the course. As he'd done so many times before, McIlroy stepped to the ball and, without much pomp, ripped it out of the tee box.
Only this time, it didn't go so well. When you lead the field in driving distance, a ball you hit wrong is going to go way wrong, and McIlroy's did. He hit it up among the cabins that line the left side of the hole, so far from the fairway that he wondered if it was out of bounds. (It wasn't, though nobody in memory has hit it up there before.)
[Related: Schwartzel rallies to Masters win]
Unfortunately, McIlroy wasn't done. His second shot flew the fairway and landed in the first cut. His third shot again flew the fairway, landing in the pine straw behind a scoreboard before kicking out and giving him at least a view of the green.
When it was all over, McIlroy had triple-bogeyed Camellia and blown a huge hole in his Masters hopes. He dropped from first to seventh, and when he walked off the green was suddenly two strokes out of the lead.
And it only got worse, as he went bogey-double bogey on the next two holes to effectively end his day.
McIlroy played exceptionally well for 63 holes. But this year, it wasn't nearly enough. He'll be back next year, wiser for the experience, but without any new apparel.