Rory McIlroy: Is another Major win imminent after his best ever Masters finish?

After finishing runner-up to Scottie Scheffler at Augusta National, the Northern Irishman hopes the good vibes can help him end his Major drought.

For a few moments on Sunday, Rory McIlroy and his army of followers believed something magic could be happening.

Rory was charging. True, it was from a long way back and he'd have to rely on leader Scottie Scheffler messing up but McIlroy was giving himself a chance.

Starting the day 10 back, he'd moved to the turn in 4-under 32 after birdies at 1, 3, 7 and 8 before chipping in from just off the green for another red number at the par-4 10th.

When he drained his eagle putt at 13 to move to 7-under for his round, McIlroy's momentum suggested the leaders - Scheffler and Cameron Smith - needed to be on their guard.

"So when I eagled 13, I thought 14, 15, 16 are birdie holes, especially with the pin positions," McIlroy said later.

"I thought if I could maybe make two of the next three, that would have got me to 8-under for the tournament and maybe two off the lead. Who knows. That's what my mindset was, to try to birdie two of the next three holes."

Frustratingly, he couldn't find another birdie until the last but it came in spectacular fashion - a perfectly-played bunker shot that caught the slope and trickled into the hole.

McIlroy's celebration was that of the kid from Northern Ireland who once could do no wrong.

"It's what you dream about, right? This tournament never ceases to amaze. Yeah, that's as happy as I've ever been on a golf course right there," he said.

"That was incredible. I've never heard roars like it on the 18th green. It was really cool."

But did it give him a shot at winning a first Major since 2014?

Smith had crumbled via a triple-bogey six at 12 so suddenly it was down to Scheffler. If he should buckle under the pressure of Masters Sunday, McIlroy could pull this miracle off.

McIlroy's exact thoughts when his bunker shot at 18 went in to complete a 64?

"Honestly? It was giving me a chance. Scottie was at 10 and that got me to 7 for the tournament and he still had to play… I didn't know if he was on 12 at that point or whatever it was, but he still had some tricky holes to navigate.

"I thought it would at least give me a chance."

In the end, Scheffler proved just too good for everyone. The American four-putted the last but he was five clear of McIlroy by that stage so the late wobble didn't matter.

But although Rory ended this year's Masters still without the prized Green Jacket and the career Grand Slam, it could prove a turning point.

Solo second (he was T2 in the 2018 Open) is his best finish in a Major since he won the 2014 PGA Championship.

And a 64, his lowest ever round at The Masters, ensured his best result at Augusta, the second place beating his solo fourth from 2015.

He said: "I don't think I've ever walked away from this tournament as happy as I am today.

"I've played a really good round of golf, and it's my best ever finish at Augusta.

"It's not quite enough, but I'll certainly look back on this day with very fond memories.

"It was just nice to feel that buzz in a Major championship again. It's been a while since I felt that, and I think trying to make the cut at an Open Championship (2019 at Royal Portrush), was the last time I felt a buzz like that in a Major. So this was certainly better than that.

"It just gives me confidence going forward not only into the next Masters next year but to the rest of the season as well. I'm on the right track and doing the right things."

Rory McIlroy's 2022 Masters stats

Rory McIlroy at Augusta

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee - 4th

Strokes Gained: Approach - 13th

Strokes Gained: Around The Green - 1st

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green - 1st

Strokes Gained: Putting - 35th

Rory McIlroy in the 2022 Majors

So how about Rory's chances in the rest of this year's Majors?

Here, Planet Sport Golf examines his hopes of glory at this year's venues - Southern Hills, The Country Club in Brookline and St Andrews.

PGA Championship - Southern Hills

It's a little difficult to take too much from the following point, given that this event moves from course to course, but there is something of a split in McIlroy's performances in the year's second Major.

In his first six starts he landed two wins, two third places and tied eighth.

In his last seven? Just one top 10 and that was tied eighth.

The 2022 edition will head to Southern Hills in Oklahoma and it might not suit. It's a windy state - Viktor Hovland lives there and frequently cites the blustery conditions - and McIlroy is famously not at his best when the wind gets up.

US Open - The Country Club in Brookline

The good news? He's a former winner of the event and has bounced back from missing three cuts in a row (2016-2018) to land three top 10s on the bounce (2019-2021).

The bad news? That win - and it was dominant - came in unusual US Open conditions with soft fairways and soft greens which are perfect for McIlroy's game.

Talking of how he won in 2011 and has struggled since he said: "Probably just a little less going on in my head (back then). A little less cynical too. Sometimes you can sort of get into that mindset coming into US Opens.

"(In contrast), first time I laid my eyes on Congressional, I thought I could see myself shooting scores out here. It's just a matter of getting into a little more of a positive mindset going into the tournament."

The 2022 host is The Country Club in Brookline which, if he's on his game, definitely looks a better fit than Southern Hills, but will it be soft? He might need the weather to help out.

The Open Championship - St Andrews

Rory McIlroy putts at St Andrews

Excellent news: the 150th Open will be hosted by The Old Course in St Andrews.

McIlroy is not a winner at the course, but he loves it. He's been the runner-up at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship three times and has also been third and eighth there.

And at the 2010 Open he finished third despite carding an 80 in the second round.

That's also a problem, of course, because that day he struggled in the wind and the memory of it hurts. He then didn't return for the 2015 Open because he'd injured himself in a five-a-side match.

He said of the championship at Royal St George's: "Over the last few years, my best performances in Majors have been at this event.

"It's been good. I've just become more and more comfortable with this style of golf, and I think more than anything else, there's a lot more variables in the Open Championship and on links courses. Once you learn that you can't control those variables, then you just have to go out and accept whatever is given to you.

"I think as I've gotten a little more experience and matured, I've been able to play this championship a little bit better."

READ MORE: Tiger Woods: I will be at the Open in St Andrews, it is my favourite golf course in the world

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