Mark McMahon's Masters diary: Why I'm doffing my cap to Rory McIlroy amid latest Augusta disappointment

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Rory McIlroy is 10 shots off the lead at Augusta followng his third-round 71 on Saturday

Rory McIlroy will not be donning the famous green jacket this year.

That’s safe to say as his one-under-par score of 71 on Saturday failed to catapult him up the leaderboard and make the major contenders for this year’s much-coveted prize slightly nervous heading into Sunday.

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The hype that surrounds his Augusta arrival each year he’s looking to complete the grand slam of golf will resume again in 12 month’s time. That’s a cert.

You suspect the popular Holywood ace might have known that as early as Thursday evening, when his opening-day 71 was off the early pace set by Bryson DeChambeau (65). His post-round words said there was still every possibility he’d be welcomed into the champions’ locker room this year - but his face painted a different picture.

The assessment was just as adamant after Friday’s 77 during the worst of Augusta’s blustery conditions - but, again, his eyes said the opposite.

Saturday’s ‘decent’ 71 which left Rory on three-over and nine short of the leaders ahead of the final day just confirmed it.

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For the 34-year-old, failure to complete the Grand Slam after a now 10th attempt will prove hugely disappointing. And in that sense, you have to feel for the four-time major winner. The whole golfing world wants him to join the likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in the pantheon of the sport’s greats. But no-one will want it more than McIlroy himself. Despite our disappointment at another failed bid, he’ll be hurting more, significantly more!

With that in mind, my admiration for the Ulsterman has grown this week.

As well as facing up to the scrutiny of the media each day of the tournament, he’s refused to let his latest Augusta struggles impact his demeanour on the course. Yes, there’s been times when he’s looked up to the skies in disbelief, occasions when he’s pulled his cap over his face in frustration, and examples when he’s simply stood head bowed wondering what more can he do. But not once did he approach a ball in trouble or a green left vacant without his shoulders well back. Not once did his stride break from being purposeful to one that lacked enthusiasm or confidence.

That’s been evident in the past - but not here, not this week. His acknowledgement of words of encouragement from supporters outside the ropes while passing through also shows a man oozing with class. A role model if ever there was one. And all that largely in the company of Scottie Scheffler - the current world No1, the man at the top of this year’s Augusta leaderboard, a rival who could be fitted up for his second green jacket, and a player who is sure to prove a massive obstacle to any future major bids that McIlroy has his eyes on.

But Rory has stood tall throughout his latest test of character. And for that reason, I doff my cap to him!

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