(REUTERS) - A subdued former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy said he would remain patient after another disappointing final round scuppered his chances of victory at golf's Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Sunday (Jan 6).
The four-time Major champion, playing for the first time on Maui, seemed ideally placed to put the heat on overnight leader Gary Woodland but once again failed to deliver in the final pairing, a one-under 72 the worst score among the top-10 finishers at the Kapalua Plantation course .
Xander Schauffele, who flew under the radar until an eagle at the ninth, slipped through for victory and his course record-equalling 62 was 10 strokes better than McIlroy's round.
"My attitude was much better today. I didn't press at all, I was very patient," McIlroy told reporters after finishing equal fourth on 277, eight strokes behind Schauffele.
"I obviously could have shot a better score, but I did what I wanted to do, gave myself plenty of chances, just couldn't get the ball to drop."
Schauffele started the final round five strokes behind Woodland and fell further back with a bogey at the first.
But two eagles - the second from 105 yards at the par-four 12th - and eight birdies catapulted the American to his fourth victory on the PGA Tour, his second in a couple of months after winning the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai in late October.
He finished at 23-under, and then watched from the scoring trailer as Woodland missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th that would have forced a play-off.
"It was a crazy day," Schauffele, the first rookie to win the Tour Championship in 2017, told Golf Channel. "I started off poorly, chipped in (on the par-five ninth) and then holed out shortly after that.
"I knew it was going to be a birdie-fest coming in. I got nervous coming down the stretch but I was able to pull off some shots."
None of those shots were better than the 200-yard approach he fired into the green at the par-four 17th, the hardest hole on the course, before reading the breaking nine-foot birdie putt perfectly .
The 25-year-old hit a similarly impressive approach at the last, a fairway-metal from 270 yards that he drew into the heart of the green before two-putting from 12 feet.
All four of his victories have been achieved playing the final round from behind.
Meanwhile McIlroy, who has decided to focus on the PGA Tour this year, a decision which ruffled some feathers in Europe, has struggled to convert opportunities to victories.
He played the final round of the first Major of 2018 with eventual winner Patrick Reed at the Masters but faded to finish equal fifth.
McIlroy was also paired in the final round last year with Tiger Woods (Tour Championship), Justin Thomas (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) and Francesco Molinari (European Tour PGA Championship).
He was beaten each time.
"It's just something I am going to have to persist with, keep putting myself in these situations," he said on Sunday.
"I don't think anyone could have lived with Xander today."