Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.
While he birdied three of his last four holes to camouflage the result somewhat and salvage some pride with a one over 71 that left him tied for second with Jim Furyk, it will gall McIlroy that he wasn't a factor coming down the stretch.
Back to Back Billy
"It's been a long four weeks. You know, if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have taken a week off somewhere in this stretch of tournaments," McIlroy said after finishIng three shots behind Horschel, who shot a 68 to win on 11 under. He has now earned $13.48m in three weeks.
Still, the double bogey on the sixth and the bogeys at the ninth, 10th and 11th will leave a sour taste for a few days even if he did finish third in the FedEx Cup standings in the end.
"I just got really frustrated and just couldn’t muster the energy to try and get something going again," McIlroy said. "And even when I was hitting good shots, I was hitting bad putts. I’m happy I made those three birdies coming in. It jumped me up the leaderboard a little bit and at least finished the day respectably."
He admitted on Saturday night that he was "weary" coming into the week but while not playing with his A game, he somehow managed to battle his way into a share of the lead with Horschel with a round to go. After 10 holes, he confessed afterwards, his chance of winning the tournament or the FedEx Cup had gone.
Having won the BMW Championship in Denver last week and finishing runner-up in the Deutsche Bank Championship the week before, 27-year old Horschel turned a modest season into a sensational one in the space of three weeks. He'd had just two top-10s all season as McIlroy swept all before him and even missed the cut in The Barclays, the first of the four consecutive FedEx Cup playoff events.
A putting tip from his coach turned things around and he was an impressive and deserving winner.
Asked about his season overall, McIlroy added: "To win two majors, my first WGC event and give it a real good run in these FedEx events, I'm really proud of myself the way I hung in there and dug deep the last few weeks. When I look back on the year as a whole it's been my best year to date so I can't complain."
Resting for Ryder Cup
"I’m looking forward to a few days off and not seeing my golf clubs for a little while. I've been in the gym every day this week and that’s fine, but mentally I’m a little fatigued. Billy deserved it, he played the best golf all week."
McIlroy should be physically perfect for the Ryder Cup but how sharp he will be remains to be seen after the most successful summer of the is career, FedEx Cup disappointment notwithstanding.
"There's a few guys I'm glad I'm not going to see at Gleneagles: him (Horschel), Ryan Palmer, Chris Kirk. There's a few guys that are playing well that aren't on this U.S. team that obviously had a great chance to make it."
As for FedEx Cup fatigue being a factor in Scotland, he said: "I think a week off will do a lot of us a world of good. It really will."
Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.