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Rory McIlroy blows victory chance at PGA National as Russell Henley takes honors

Rory McIlroy blows victory chance at PGA National as Russell Henley takes honors
MGN
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Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 8:23pm

Despite a miracle shot to join a four-man playoff, Rory McIlroy ultimately was left to rue his failure to negotiate the notorious Bear Trap at PGA National as Russell Henley claimed the Honda Classic title Sunday.

Looking to lead from start to finish, McIlroy endured a wayward final round 74 but after brilliantly scrambling a par three on the 15th still held the lead at 10-under-par.

An ugly double bogey at the 16th after he found the water and a bogey four on the par-3 17th then all but ended his chances.
The former world number one appeared to need an eagle three on the par-5 to rekindle his victory hopes and from 245 yards hit an approach of laser-like accuracy over the water and to within 10 feet of the flag.

Playing partner Henley fluffed his chance to make a birdie four to get to nine under and McIlroy saw his eagle putt slide agonizingly wide.

It left the pair tied at eight-under 272 with earlier finishers Russel Knox of Scotland and American Ryan Palmer, who had missed a short par putt on the 18th, which would have given him outright victory.

Playing the 18th again as the first extra hole, McIlroy attempted to repeat his earlier approach shot but his effort went long and into the back bunker.

He failed to get down in two shots and with Knox and Palmer also having to settle for par fives, it left Henley a short putt to seal his second PGA Tour victory with a birdie four.

McIlroy, searching for his first win of the year after near misses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, held a two-shot lead over Henley after starting the day on 12-under.

Wayward play saw shots dribble away before he hit the three-hole Bear Trap from 15th to the 17th, designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus.

Henley, who had chipped in to join McIlroy at 10-under on the 14th, made a hash of the short 15th himself, finding the water with his tee shot to make a double bogey.

But he kept his nerve the better in the final analysis to land the $6 million PGA Tour event.

"I was fortunate that I was in the playoff," McIlroy said. "I didn't play well enough at all down the stretch to win this tournament."

"It's going to take a long time for this to sink in," admitted Henley.

Earlier, world number one Tiger Woods was forced to withdraw during the final round with a back injury.

Woods, who has endured a difficult start to the year, shot a third round 65, but was five-over through 13 holes when he left the course.

Woods is scheduled to begin his defense of the WGC Cadillac Championship Thursday and it is only six weeks to the first major of the season at Augusta.

A statement released by Woods said that his back had spasm while warming up Sunday, similar to the problem he suffered at The Barclays last year, but was still able to finish runner-up.
 

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