LEE Westwood knows what cost him yet another chance to win a major.
Runner-up by three shots to Phil Mickelson at Augusta two years ago, Westwood got even closer by finishing two strokes behind Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen on Sunday night.
It was a sixth top three finish for the 38-year-old in his last 10 majors, but the US Open in San Francisco in June will be his 57th attempt to win one.
Nobody hit more greens in regulations during the four days at Augusta, but Westwood said: “The story of the week is you have got to putt well to win The Masters and I haven’t.”
After three-putting from 10 feet for double bogey at the end of his second round and missing from little more than a foot on the ninth green the next day, England’s world number three could not afford any slip-ups as the event came to its climax.
“I came out and missed a two-footer on the third inexplicably - and that is not the kind of thing that will give you confidence for the rest of the round. I didn’t really make that many putts. The longest was 10 feet on 18. That’s not really good enough.”
However, Westwood is not as gloomy as Sergio Garcia, who spoke of not having the game to win after finishing joint 12th.
He said: “I’ll keep plugging (away). I don’t feel like giving up just yet.”
McIlroy stays second on the rankings behind Luke Donald after finishing only 40th - alongside Tiger Woods.
For Woods it was a worst-ever performance at Augusta as a professional, for McIlroy it was comfortably his worst result since last August.
The 22-year-old will, of course, be the defending champion at the Olympic Club in nine weeks’ time. Finishing 77-76 was not as traumatic as his crashing to a closing 80 when leading by four last year, but expectations are so much higher for the young Northern Irishman now.
“It was a disappointing weekend - just one of those things,” he said. “But I’ll come back next year and try my best again. I’ll take a couple of weeks off, reflect and think about what I didn’t do so well, then just try and get back at it and prepare for the US Open.”
His next scheduled start is the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow on May 3-6 - that was the scene of his first PGA Tour victory two years ago.
Donald, also disappointed with his share of 32nd place, moves straight on to Hilton Head for the RBC Heritage, where he lost a play-off to Brandt Snedeker last year.
Padraig Harrington will be there too and for him there was great encouragement to be taken from a tie for eighth. After stumbling to 96th in the world he is back up to 80th.