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While Rory McIlroy may not have won the final edition of the WGC-Match Play event, it was still a solid week for the Northern Irishman. For one, he had the shot of the tournament with a ridiculous 376-yard drive on the par-4 18th hole at Austin Country Club, one that essentially gave him a tap-in eagle and won him his second-round match with Denny McCarthy.

That was one of six wins for McIlroy on the week against one loss, that defeat coming in a 19-hole instant classic with Cameron Young in the semifinals. But Rory bounced back on Sunday afternoon with a 2 & 1 win over world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler in the third-place match, earning him a $1.42 million check. In addition, McIlroy overtook Jon Rahm in the Official World Golf Ranking and now sits in the No. 2 spot.

While Rory obviously wanted to win, he has to be thrilled with how he played, given that he put a new driver and a new putter into play. He’ll now turn all his attention toward The Masters, where he’ll once again attempt to complete the career Grand Slam, and he’ll undoubtedly be one of the favorites in a stacked field.

Unfortunately, however, that field at Augusta National won’t include Lucas Herbert, who played brilliantly at the WGC-Match Play but lost to McIlroy in the Round of 16. And it was that loss that would keep Herbert from teeing it up at The Masters for a second straight year.

Rory McIlroy cost Lucas Herbert a spot at The Masters

Rory McIlroy and Lucas Herbert following their Round of 16 matchup at the WGC-Match Play
Rory McIlroy and Lucas Herbert on the 18th green after McIlroy won their match 2-up during day four of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 25, 2023 | Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Coming into the WGC-Match Play, Lucas Herbert was ranked 56th in the OWGR and needed a good week to get himself into the top 50, which would secure his spot at Augusta for the second straight year. As the 27-year-old Australian doesn’t meet any of the other criteria for an invitation, getting into the top 50 was his only path.

And he certainly did his part to get out of the group stage, going 3-0 with victories over Russell Henley, Tyrrell Hatton, and Ben Griffin. And his reward for that stellar play? A date in the Round of 16 with Rory McIlroy.

Herbert, a two-time winner on the European Tour and a one-time winner on the PGA Tour, certainly put up a good fight on Saturday morning, never letting McIlroy get too far ahead. In the end, however, he just didn’t have enough as Rory took a 2-up victory to move into the quarterfinals.

Now, had Herbert defeated McIlroy, he would have earned enough points to crack the top 50, thus punching his ticket to Augusta. He did jump in the rankings this week, but just not far enough, as he’s now No. 51. Furthermore, he’s oddly not in the field for the Valero Texas Open, the winner of which gets an automatic invite to The Masters.

About a month after The Masters, Rory McIlroy will celebrate his 34th birthday, and I think it’s safe to say Lucas Herbert won’t be sending a card.


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