Rory McIlroy satisfied ahead of his Augusta challenge

Rory McIlroy watches his putt on the first green during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Rory McIlroy watches his putt on the first green during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Rory McIlroy expressed his satisfaction with his final competitive appearance before the Masters as Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson battled for the title in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy began the day seven shots behind Stenson and despite briefly closing the gap to five with birdies on the fourth and sixth, bogeys on the ninth and 12th ended his chances of an unlikely win on his Bay Hill debut.

The world number one at least ended in style with birdies on the 16th and 18th for a closing round of 70 ahead of his bid to win a third major title in succession and complete the career grand slam at Augusta.

“I feel like I got what I wanted out of the week, four good competitive rounds,” McIlroy said.

“I saw some progress on some of the things I was working on last week. Still need to work on some things ahead of Augusta.

“It would have been nice to get into contention and feel what is was like to have a chance to win but I am happy with my progress and have another couple of weeks to work on some things and hopefully go to Augusta ready.

“I am excited going there with the opportunity to achieve three in a row, the career grand slam. It’s a nice position to be in. I’m going to embrace it, try not to build it up too much. I know it’s a big deal but hopefully I can get my game as good as I possibly can.”

Stenson had seen his two-shot overnight lead turned into a two-shot deficit in the space of eight holes, the Swede following birdies at the first and fourth with a bogey on the fifth as playing partner Morgan Hoffmann made an inspired start.

Hoffmann birdied five of the first eight holes before bogeys on the ninth, 12th and 13th derailed his challenge and Stenson took advantage with birdies on the 11th and 12th to reclaim the outright lead.

At 19 under par, the world number three led by one from defending champion Matt Every with four holes to play, with Hoffmann two shots further back.

Former Masters champion Zach Johnson had earlier set the clubhouse target on 12 under thanks to the second albatross in tournament history in the space of two days.

Johnson holed his second shot to the 16th with a five iron from 207 yards, 24 hours after Daniel Berger had holed his approach to the sixth from 240.

“It was five to 10 yards left of where I was trying to land it but obviously you get some good and bad bounces and that was a good one,” Johnson said after bogeys at the last two holes in a 66. “It’s my first in competition so I will take it.”

There was not such good news for Brooks Koepka, who earlier withdrew from the final round after 11 holes due to a dislocated rib.