McIlroy reflects on disappointing final round in Hawaii

Brice Garnett plays his shot from the first tee during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event Friday Jan. 4 2019 at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua Hawaii

Brice Garnett plays his shot from the first tee during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event Friday Jan. 4 2019 at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua Hawaii

"And, honestly, I don't think anyone could have beaten Xander today".

Having opened with rounds of 69-68-68 to find himself in the final group on the last day at Kapalua, the Northern Irishman was a touch disappointed to sign off with a one-under-par 72 in the event for 2018 winners on the U.S. circuit. "I put a new driver, a new ball and a new putter in the bag and they all felt really good".

He played the final round of the first major of 2018 with eventual victor Patrick Reed at the Masters but faded to finish equal fifth.

But while he avoided the temptation to press "too early", he lacked the crucial cutting edge on the greens he showed in winning at Bay Hill previous year and ended up tied for fourth.

The Northern Irishman got up and down on the 14th to briefly tie for the lead, before closing with four straight pars to get to 14 under and keep himself in contention to overtake Woodland over the last 18 holes on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

"Anything that was right-to-left I missed on the high side and anything left-to-right I missed on the low side", said McIlroy, who was 24th in the 33-man field for strokes gained putting on the final day.

Instead, the final round turned into a two-way battle between Woodland and eventual champion Xander Schauffele, who stole the show with a spectacular final-round 62.

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My best round of the year [in 2018] was Bay Hill and I always go back to that and I should have learned from that.

"I've been in this position before but I'm a completely different kind of player now". Some things I wasn't maybe quite as comfortable doing past year.

After a 327 yard drive on the 380-yard par-4 third, Rory McIlroy chipped his second shot to 1 foot, which he rolled for one-putt birdie on the hole.

All four of his victories have been achieved playing the final round from behind.

"It's nice to get up and running in the calendar year", McIlroy added.

Schauffele won the Greenbrier Classic and the Tour Championship to lock up the PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year award in 2017, finished second in The Open last year and won the WGC-HSBC Champions after a play-off with Tony Finau last October. "It was nice to see that long one go in on the par five there on the back - nice to finish with a birdie here on 18".

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