Rory McIlroy admitted he has to improve his mental approach after claiming an unwanted record in spite of finishing a frustrating week in style in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
McIlroy carded two eagles and five birdies in a closing 65 to finish six under par at Bay Hill, but a double bogey on the 14th was his sixth of the week and his most ever in a PGA Tour event.
The four-time major winner was never in contention for a first win of the season after shooting 75 on the first day and again in the third round, but could take the positives from a 67 on Friday and Sunday’s score, which he completed by holing from 60 feet for birdie on the 18th.
“Bryson (DeChambeau) and myself both got off to a great start and I think we fed off one another early on and we were just trying to keep it going,” said McIlroy, who chipped in for an eagle on the sixth and holed from eight feet for another on the 16th.
“I hit a little bit of a lull at the start of the back nine when I was really trying to push on and make a few more birdies but made up for that with my finish on the last three holes.
“It’s a nice way to round off the week. I was really disappointed coming off the course yesterday after feeling like my game was in really good shape coming here - you’ve seen glimpses of that this week with a 67 which could have been a lot better on Friday and then a 65 today. I just need to eradicate my mistakes.
“Even today I threw in a double bogey, which has sort of been the story of, not just my week, but my year so far. If I can get rid of those mistakes and play some of the golf that I have been playing there is no reason why I can’t go on and contend a lot of weeks this year.
“I just can’t beat myself up mentally; that’s something that I have done this week. I’ve really beaten myself up for hitting bad shots and making mistakes and I can’t do that because you can compound one mistake with another and then you get into a bit of a lull where you play a bad nine holes and you just can’t afford to do that.
“Mentally I have to be better and bounce back better. I wasn’t able to do that for a couple of days this week but I was able to do that today for the most part. If I can just be a bit better mentally then hopefully that will be the key for me.”
McIlroy will defend his WGC-Dell Match Play title in Texas next week, but admits his main focus is trying to complete the career grand slam by winning the Masters from April 7-10.
“It’s all about Augusta,” the 26-year-old told Sky Sports. “Next week is a bit of a weird week for my final competitive week going into Augusta but it will be great to get some matches under my belt.
“Match play is like being in contention on a weekend from the very first hole so I think that’s going to be a great thing for me to see if I can play this sort of golf under pressure when I need to. I am excited for next week but obviously looking ahead, I’m very excited for Augusta.”
McIlroy will lose his world number two ranking to Jason Day if the Australian goes on to win his sixth title in just over 13 months on Sunday, the US PGA champion holding a two-shot lead over Henrik Stenson, Troy Merritt and Kevin Chappell.