And then he wasn't. The guy who had closed the deal on his three previous 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour double-bogeyed the 16th hole, bogeyed No. 17 and birdied the par-5 18th to squeeze into the playoff. He could have won it outright had he sunk the makeable eagle putt. Sigh.
McIlroy offered all sorts of swing-related reasons for his struggles: His body was stopping, so the club was getting past his body ... his favorite cut shot bailed on him ... he couldn't get any spin on a greenside bunker shot on the first playoff hole. Fascinating stuff for golf instructors Butch Harmon and David Leadbetter, but Portuguese to the rest of us.
The bottom line is that McIlroy could have won and didn't. He knows it. Henley knows it. Woods, who was likely at home by the time the playoff began, knows it.
"I had my chances," said McIlroy. "Even had my chance at the last and [it] just wasn't to be. Tough to take at the minute, but I'll sleep it off tonight and get back at it."
He'll get back at it this week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. As for Woods, we're on medical alert.
Woods was scheduled to play at Doral and then Bay Hill two weeks after that. Then he'd taper down for the Masters.
But the back spasms create the usual Woods drama. Will he be OK for Doral, where he is the defending champion? Will he be OK for Arnold Palmer's tournament, where he is also the defending champion? Is his Masters prep work in trouble? Will the back issue force him to miss Augusta?
It would have been fun had he played better and not gotten into a fistfight with his back. A 67 would have put him into the playoff.
It would have been fun had McIlroy not lost the lug nuts on his final-round wheels. Or if he had taken advantage of the longest drive on the first and only playoff hole.
None of it happened. Woods limped off the course. McIlroy limped out of the playoff.
Henley and his immediate family loved how everything turned out. Good for them. Bad for drama.