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Play-off disappointment for McIlroy at Honda Classic
Rory McIlroy allowed a two-shot lead to slip through his fingers as he lost in a play-off at the Honda Classic in Florida.
There was drama elsewhere at the event, too, as Tiger Woods was forced to withdraw with back injury, although McIlroy was still unable to find that winning touch.
McIlroy carded a four-over-par 74, but missed a 12-foot eagle putt at the last to win the game outright. That left American Russell Henley to soar through the play-off, which also featured compatriot Ryan Palmer and Scotland’s Russell Knox, with a birdie at the first extra hole.
Woods was the favourite for the title but he was forced to withdraw on the 13th because of back pain. He hit a five-under-par 65 on Saturday to move into contention but was five over in his final round when he quit. His withdrawal from the game comes six weeks before the Masters at Augusta – the first major of 2014 – which takes place from 10-13 April.
A disappointed Woods told the media after leaving the field: "It's my lower back with spasms. It started while I was warming up."
McIlroy admitted he was lucky to have reached the play-off after dropping six shots in 11 holes from the seventh, which included a double-bogey six on the par-four 16th where he hit his golf ball out of a bunker and straight into water. He then followed that with another bogey on the 17th which left him needing a birdie on the last to get into the play-off at eight under.
The 24-year-old placed himself in a great place to secure victory when he delivered a scintillating second shot on the par-five hole that finished 12 feet from the hole but he was unable to hole the eagle putt that would have won him the title.
McIlroy told the PGA Tour website: "I didn't play well enough to deserve to win. It's very disappointing. It was a perfect opportunity to win. No one was really coming at me.
"There's a few positives to take, but obviously it's going to be hard to get over because I had a great chance to win my first tournament of the season and I didn't."
Hanley, who qualified for the Maters, won the game at the first extra hole with a two-foot birdie putt.
"I was so nervous coming down the stretch," said Henley, who won his first PGA Tour title at last year's Sony Open in Hawaii.
"I hope I can have a bunch more Sundays just like that in my career. It was a rush to be out there playing with Rory and the crowd.
"I've never been part of a crowd so big cheering for me. It was an amazing feeling. It was so much fun."
What’s in the bag?
Take a look at the golf equipment Russell Henley used to win the Honda Classic in Florida.