Leading article: All in the mind

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Only someone with the hardest of hearts would be unable to summon up some sympathy for golfer Rory McIlroy after his disastrous final round at the US Masters tournament. Having gone into the last day with a four-stroke lead, he managed to blow it in spectacular fashion, between the 10th and the 12th, ending up in a tie for 15th place.

Golf has a claim to be the cruellest of sports. Not in simple terms of life and death: this year's Grand National is too fresh in the memory to argue that. Nor in terms of personal, one-on-one ruthlessness: witness the humiliating demolition job that one tennis player can inflict on another. But because, when the chips are down, the golfer is up against only himself. On this day, on this course, this young Northern Ireland golfer was unequal to the task in hand.

The contrast between the commanding McIlroy of day three and the disconsolate McIlroy of day four came down to psychology – no more and no less. Between the first and the third day, he had convinced himself he could win; by the fourth, he feared he could not. His bearing said it all. Still only 21, Rory McIlroy has time to slay his demons, but only if he can treat his failure at Augusta as an additional challenge to be met, rather than a catastrophe that risks blighting his career.

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