Rory McIlroy: World number six says wind blew Abu Dhabi putts off course

McIlroy finished five shots behind Tyrrell Hatton after a frustrating final round for the Northern Irishman
McIlroy finished five shots behind Tyrrell Hatton after a frustrating final round for the Northern Irishman

Rory McIlroy believes a strong wind impacted his putting as he fell short in his bid to start 2021 with a win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Overnight leader McIlroy shot a level-par 72 to finish third as Tyrrell Hatton clinched a four-stroke victory.

"I started well with two birdies in the first three and then the wind affected a few putts maybe more than the last couple of days," McIlroy told Sky.

"The one on four, the three-putt, and then there were a couple others."

Playing in his first European Tour event for 14 months, McIlroy gave himself a chance of securing his first win since November 2019 with a five-under-par 67 on Saturday to lead Hatton by a shot.

However, after picking up birdies at the second and third holes, the four-time major winner struggled on the greens, three-putting the par-three fourth before dropping another shot on the par-five eighth, a hole he had birdied in each of his first three rounds.

At that stage, Hatton began to apply more pressure with the 29-year-old Englishman picking up three shots in the space of four holes between the seventh and 10th.

McIlroy dropped two more shots on the back nine while Hatton added birdies at 13 and 16 to pull clear of the chasing pack and capture his sixth European Tour title by finishing four strokes ahead of Australia's Jason Scrivener.

"The couple of bogeys around the turn didn't help," added McIlroy.

"I was in a good position on 10 and then Tyrrell's outside of me, he makes that putt for birdie and then I can't make mine for eagle.

"That was a huge momentum keeper for him, then I bogeyed the next. After that, it was hard to get back into it."

'I don't feel like I played great'

While McIlroy shot rounds of 64 and 67 on Thursday and Saturday, the 31-year-old does not feel as though he was firing on all cylinders in what was his first competitive appearance since The Masters in November.

"I don't feel like I played great this week.

"I was sort of managing my game a little bit, so it's nice to get a competitive week under my belt and know where my game is to see what I need to do to keep improving.

McIlroy carded four birdies and four bogeys during a level-par 72 final round in Abu Dhabi
McIlroy carded four birdies and four bogeys during a level-par 72 final round in Abu Dhabi

"I thought for the most part my putting and short game was pretty good, I scrambled well. I hit some pretty good approach shots, especially last night coming down the last few holes.

"There were parts of rounds where I got the driver going, even the last few holes this evening.

"But still, sometimes I'll have a few holes where it's like that and then there are a few holes where it gets away from me, so it's about consistency and replicating the good ones hole after hole until you put four rounds together."

McIlroy returns to action on Thursday as he begins his PGA Tour season at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in California.

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