Rory McIlroy missed another chance to complete the career Grand Slam on Sunday Masters despite what he called his best Augusta National run.
The four-time major winner from Northern Ireland fired a three-under par-69 to share fifth on eight-under 277, nine strokes behind US champion Dustin Johnson.
Fifth-ranked McIlroy couldn't overcome a first-round 75, not even with only two bogeys in his last 54 holes.
"Guess I need to take the positives," McIlroy said. "Played the last 54 really well and only made two bogeys in that 54-hole stretch, which is probably the best run of golf I've played here."
But when a storm-hit first round stretched into Friday, McIlroy found himself wavering on club choices and took 10 shots more than Johnson did.
"I got a little careful, a little tentative, a little guidey, just didn't trust my swing, didn't commit to what I was doing," McIlroy said. "This course more than any other can make you do that at times. That was really what it was.
"That second morning I just didn't quite have it."
It's the sixth time McIlroy has come to Augusta National needing to win the Masters to complete the Slam and he hasn't won a major title since 2014.
McIlroy said he was able to relax more at this year's Masters with its lack of spectators and autumn timing rather than the usual April, both due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Iron deficiency -
It's a mood he'd like to recapture next April in the second of back-to-back Masters.
"I loved the feeling of being relaxed out there and it's something I probably need to try to adopt going into five months' time," McIlroy said.
"I feel like there's a lot of shots I hit this week where I hit my number and it would spin back off a green or just wouldn't do what you expect, so I'd love to get another shot at it in April and have the course play more what we're accustomed to."
In the interim, McIlroy is going to work on his iron shots, a nagging woe since he returned from the US PGA's Covid-19 shutdown in June.
"My iron play hasn't been great since coming back from the lockdown," he said. "Definitely something to work on going into the off season and try to come out a little better in 2021."
McIlroy went three-under on the front nine Sunday, rising to a distant fourth, but never threatened Johnson.
"When I birdied the eighth and got to 11(-under), I saw DJ had dropped to 15 and I thought maybe there was a chance," McIlroy said. "But the wind sort of got up as we hit the turn, and it just was hard to make birdies.
"Dustin is just playing such solid golf. It was probably wishful thinking on my part. But hung in there until the end and put up another score in the 60s in pretty tricky conditions."