LONDON – Some called it a "meltdown," others labeled it "misery" or a "horror show." No matter how you describe it, Rory McIlroy's final round at the Masters turned into agony for the young Northern Irishman from Holywood and for his supporters back in Britain.
The 21-year-old McIlroy, who hails from the small town in County Down, fell apart at Augusta National on Sunday just when he seemed poised to win his first major. He shot an 8-over 80 to drop from the top of the leaderboard to 15th — 10 shots behind champion Charl Schwartzel.
"McIlroy slips from master to bogey man on final day," the Irish Times headlined on its website Monday. In the Irish News, it was "Rory Shattered," while its fellow Belfast-based newspaper News Letter wrote: "Horror Show." The Irish Independent headlined "Masters meltdown as Rory fights off tears."
McIlroy had the lead through the first three rounds, and then teed off Sunday morning with a four-stroke lead and the chance to become the second youngest winner of the green jacket.
"All he had to do was go out on to the beautifully manicured haven that is Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and to continue doing what he had done for the three previous rounds to claim the U.S. Masters title," Philip Reid of the Irish Times wrote from Augusta. "Easier said than done, of course."
McIlroy's round went from bad — two bogeys on the front nine — to worse starting on the 10th. He triple-bogeyed that first hole after the turn, followed with a bogey on No. 11 and then double-bogeyed the 12th.
On No. 13, his tee shot went into a creek.
"I realized then that I didn't have a chance," McIlroy said Sunday. "Once I hit that tee shot left on 13, I was done."
Just about everyone watching could see it, too.
"McIlroy looked to be close to fighting back tears as an errant ball took valuable shots as it nestled in a creek," the Irish Independent wrote Monday.
The headlines in London were equally somber, from "McIlroy Misery" in the Daily Mail to "McIlroy's Masters dream becomes a horror show" in The Times of London. In the Daily Telegraph, a two-page banner headline read: "McIlroy's world crumbles after day from hell."
If McIlroy had won, he would have become the second youngest Masters champion behind Tiger Woods. Instead, his implosion has left him being named alongside players like Jean Van de Velde and Greg Norman, who both fell apart and lost big leads at major tournaments in the 1990s.
"We had hoped to compare the young Northern Irishman to the great Masters champions but instead had to reach for the compendium of great golfing train wrecks," Matt Dickinson wrote in The Times of London.
Richard Williams of The Guardian also took a harsh look at the freefall.
"McIlroy did not fade out of the contest. He crashed out of it, brakes gone and tires screeching, in a welter of debris," Williams wrote.
In Ireland, the papers were a bit more lenient.
"Maybe what unfolded on this hallowed turf was all part of some greater plan, but what happened to the 21-year-old Ulsterman was sport at its most cruel," the Irish Times wrote.
McIlroy's demise, however, hasn't dimmed the hopes of the golf faithful in Northern Ireland that the curly haired youngster will be back another day. After all, he has finished tied for third in three of the last six majors.
"This might not have been his time, but there in no doubt that it will come," Karl MacGinty wrote in the Belfast Telegraph. "Ordinary golfers don't lead the Masters for three days."