AUSTIN (Texas) • Rory McIlroy will make the most of his surprise elimination from the World Golf Championships Matchplay event to tune up for next month's Masters.
The four-time Major champion suggested tiredness played a part in his 5 and 3 defeat by Brian Harman at Austin Country Club on Friday, when Jordan Spieth, a three-time Major winner, was among the other big names eliminated.
McIlroy admitted that snapping his 18-month winless streak at the Arnold Palmer Invitational a week ago left him mentally fatigued.
"That takes it out of you, being in contention, and all that mental energy," said the 28-year-old after his final competitive tune-up for the Masters, the only Major title he needs to complete a career Grand Slam. "I wish I was hanging around for the weekend but I'll rest up and get a little bit of work in before going to Augusta."
The Northern Irishman needed to beat Harman on the final day of round-robin play at the WGC-Dell Technologies event to have a chance of qualifying for the weekend. But it was all one-way traffic in the American's favour.
Despite being outdriven by 60 yards at times, the 18th seed, who has two PGA Tour titles, proved steadier, losing only one hole.
"I'm proud of the way I came out. Rory is an intimidating guy. He hits it a mile," Harman told the Golf Channel. "I had this one (match) circled this week and I'm glad I came out and performed pretty well."
He was the first player in the 64-man field to advance to the knockout stage.
Spieth was later knocked out by United States Ryder Cup partner Patrick Reed, who won their much anticipated match 2 and 1.
Reed, ranked 23rd in the world, never trailed and rolled in a 40-foot putt from off the 17th green to end Spieth's hopes of a first title of the year.
"It was such a grind out there, you had to focus so much on every shot, whether it was a wedge shot into the green or a three-foot putt," Reed said.
Spieth (No. 4) and McIlroy (No. 6) joined Dustin Johnson (No. 1), Jon Rahm (No. 3), Hideki Matsuyama (No. 5), Jason Day, (No. 8) Tommy Fleetwood (No. 9) and Paul Casey (No. 10) as the other top 10 seeds making an early exit.
Only Justin Thomas, seeded second, and Masters champion Sergio Garcia (No. 7) made it through the cut-throat group stage.
Garcia, tuning up for his Masters title defence at Augusta National, rallied from 2 down through 11 holes to beat rising American star Xander Schauffele 3 and 1 to reach the last 16.
Thomas pummelled Italian Francesco Molinari 7 and 5 to set up a meeting with South Korean Kim Si Woo - a 2-up winner over Webb Simpson.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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