Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry hungry for Major glory after spectacular Masters
Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry are looking to the rest of this year's Majors with more hunger than ever after finishing second and third behind Scottie Scheffler in the Masters.
McIlroy produced another of his final day charges from the chasing pack, but his eighth top 10 in his last 10 Masters appearances should reignite his belief that he can end his near eight-year wait for that elusive fifth major win.
"I don't think I've ever walked away from this tournament as happy as I am today," McIlroy said after that spectacular hole-out from sand for birdie at the 18th for an eight-under 64 and the lone, bogey-free round of the week.
"I've played a really good round of golf, and it's my best ever finish at Augusta. It's not quite enough, but I'll certainly look back on this day with very fond memories.
"It gives me confidence going forward, not only into the next Masters next year but to the rest of the season as well."
Should he eventually go into Sunday close to the lead again and complete the career Grand Slam, Sunday will go down as a key round in his apprenticeship.
"I think just all these memories that are building up," added McIlroy, who not only topped the driving distance charts, he was second for greens hit in regulation.
"I think I've had some really good Sundays here from a little further back— the 66 I shot with Tiger in the final round in 2015 and obviously today.
"I've had a few other rounds where I haven't been quite in contention and shot good scores. So I think the more and more I do it, the more memories I build up. And if I do put myself in a position closer to the lead going into Sunday, I can delve into that memory bank and try to use those memories and my experience to my advantage."
McIlroy has never doubted his ability to win the Masters and that belief was strengthened on Sunday.
"I've always known that I can do it," he said. "I've played good enough around here, maybe just haven't strung four rounds together like that, but I've always known that I have the game to win at this place.
"It's just a matter of having that game for four days in a row and not making big numbers and shooting yourself in the foot, I guess. That was my attitude the first couple of days. I certainly didn't do that.
"I played for pars quite a lot, but in the course of a tournament, you are going to find some spots where you go on a birdie run, and you try to take advantage of some of the good golf that you play and I did that today.
"But yeah, I don't think it just sets me up for next year, it sets me up for the rest of the year. I feel like my game has been sort of quietly pretty good without the results to really show for it.
"Every now and again it's nice to have results like this just to reaffirm what you're doing is the right thing. The only person that beat me this week is the best golfer in the world, so I'm on the right track and I'm doing the right things.
"It was just nice to feel that buzz in a major championship again. It's been a while since I felt that. I think the last time was when I was trying to make the cut in an Open Championship.
"I am excited going forward, and I think this day will stand to me, not just in the Masters for the next few years but also for my career going forward."
If McIlroy was ecstatic with his 64, Lowry was a little more downcast, even after fighting back from a tournament wrecking, triple-bogey six at the fourth to shoot 69 and tie for third.
Were it not for McIlroy, it would have gone down as the best ever finish by an Irishman in the Masters. But he struggled to see the silver lining and wondered what might have been, having come into the week truly fancying his chances only to see them evaporate with that triple bogey at the fourth.
"Obviously, I did very well to come back from what happened on the fourth hole today, but I do feel quite disappointed standing here right now because genuinely, I don't think I've ever built myself up for a week like this so much," Lowry said.
"Even when I felt like I got a little bit unfortunate at the Honda Classic, all I could think about was it doesn't matter, Augusta is not far away, and my game is good.
"It's the first time I felt like I was trying to get myself up for this week. And to come in here and perform to the standards that I did is very, very... it's nice. It's good. It's quite rewarding.
"I am disappointed that somebody else is going to be putting on the green jacket this afternoon and it's not going to be me. Golf is such a funny game. A top-three at the start of the week, you wonder if you're going to take it or not. So standing here now finishing third, you feel like you're disappointed.
"It's hard because I want this so much, and I work so hard for it that I hope I get chances again. I just know what it would mean for me and my family and for the people of Ireland to bring the green jacket home, and I didn't do that today, but hopefully, I can do it again."
Having started seven behind Scottie Scheffler, he cut the gap to six through three holes, he was proud to come back from his triple and play the remaining holes in five-under for a closing 69.
"I just told myself it was one bad shot and a lot of pins were in bowls and I was going to get a lot of chances," he said after finishing the week ranked first around the greens and second for putting.
"I was putting well and I just knew that I was going to give myself chances, so I was just going to knuckle down and get on with it.
"I am never going to give up. I'm never going to let myself down out there, so whether I'd be 10-under or 10-over, I'm going to be trying over every shot, and that's what I did today. It kind of paid off at the end.
"Look, it's a nice week and some very valuable world ranking points, FedEx Cup points and Race to Dubai points and that's nice.
"But I will wake up tomorrow kind of thinking what could've been, there's no doubt about that.
"Obviously, the best player in the world came here this week and what a run of form he's on. He put on a show. To shoot 12 under around here is very, very good."
It was a wonderful week for the Irish with Séamus Power tied 27th on his major debut and McIlroy finishing second and Lowry knows he will see things differently by the time he gets to Hilton Head for this week's RBC Heritage.
"I will sit down with the lads tonight and chat about it, but I'm going to Hilton Head next week to try and win the tournament and that's only four days away.
"I haven't won for a few years and I don't enjoy not winning. I just love competing and winning tournaments.
"As I said to Bo coming down 18, I just love playing big tournaments. It gets me going so much and there's another big, big one a few weeks, so hopefully, I can keep my form going and give it a go up there in (the US PGA in) Oklahoma."
While McIlroy is now seventh in the world with Lowry 30th and Power 40th and up to 29th in the Race to Dubai, Ireland could have three men in the 2023 Ryder Cup side.
On Ireland's incredible run of form in the majors since 2007, he said: "Seamus is probably the one that will take the brunt of that because people will be wondering when he is going to win one now.
"Look, great to have four Irish people here this week. Paddy was unfortunate to miss the cut. Seamus got to play the weekend. I'd say he learned a lot. Weekend golf out here is way different than practice rounds. Myself and Rory second and third. Yeah, it's pretty nice for Irish golf."
As for Power making the Ryder Cup side, he said: "That's obviously his goal. Obviously, I want him there, but I want me there first!"
Lowry stopped short of declaring he will win the Masters some day, but he knows he has the game to win.
"You just don't know," he said to a colleague who was set to play Augusta today. "I hope I come in here next year with the form I've had this year, and I might give it a good go again, but it won't be from the lack of trying.
"This is obviously my first weekend out there in the heat of it, and like I said, I felt very comfortable."
Joking, he added: "You'll see what it's like tomorrow. As long as you don't make triple on the fourth, you're all right.”
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