Sunday, 27 March 2016
McIlroy positive despite Day loss.

Rory McIlroy believes the "heat of contention" a week of match play golf brings will hold him in good stead ahead of the Masters Tournament.

The Northern Irishman fell short of defending his WGC-Dell Match Play title after a one hole defeat to Jason Day in the semi-finals at Austin Country Club on Sunday.

But the World Number Three feels that the pressure of being in contention will be invaluable in his bid to complete a career Grand Slam of Major Championships at Augusta National.

“I said coming into this tournament, if I play three rounds or six rounds or even seven rounds match play, feeling like you're in contention every time you step onto the match tee is a great feeling and is something you cannot replicate in practice,” he said.

“So the week has been very positive overall.

I wish I could have been able to get one more win under my belt but I'm really happy with my game going into Augusta - Rory McIlroy

Despite not posting a bogey in the match, McIlroy could not edge past Day and believes failing to make birdies on the  12th and 13th made the task tougher against the man who returns to Number One in the Official World Golf Ranking after his performance in Texas.

“If I have to look back on it, there was a couple of opportunities on the third and fourth hole which I didn't convert,” said McIlroy.

“Not birdieing the 12th and 13th was a real downfall, to go two down after that, Jason Day wasn't really giving me anything.

“I made a couple of birdies in the last five but it just wasn't good enough.

“I feel like I played well, I didn’t hand him anything. But obviously I'm disappointed that I'm not in the final.”

Rafa Cabrera Bello was the other losing semi-finalist, going down 4 and 3 to Louis Oosthuizen in a week when three European Tour Members made the last four.

The Spaniard has enjoyed a stunning week as the 52nd seed, securing his place at the Masters with a last 16 victory over Byeong-hun An that will move him into the top 50 in the world.

He confessed earlier in the week that the season's first Major is the reason he wanted to become a professional golfer and, although he was disappointed with his performance against Oosthuizen, he can reflect on a positive tournament.

"It was a tough day out there today and I didn't do my best," he said. "I feel tee to green I handled myself pretty well, just didn't quite manage to read the putts properly today.

"But I'm sure from tonight onwards, I'll have a bigger smile.

"I'm playing great, I've competed really well in a world class event with the world's best players."

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