It was a match within the contest — a clash of titans — Rory McIlroy versus Tiger Woods, together at last on Sunday at the Masters.
Only fly in the ointment was that from the start it looked like it would be for second place at best — with McIlroy and Woods both a whopping 10 shots behind third round leader Jordan Spieth.
That left them needing the greatest comeback in Masters history to stop Spieth, surpassing the record eight-shot rally by Jack Burke in 1956.
Neither of them looked like pulling off that feat.
“I’m happy with how I finished, just obviously left myself with a bit too much to do after 27 holes of this tournament and that’s what really cost me,” McIlroy said.
The two biggest names in world golf oddly had only ever played two rounds of major golf together previously.
That came when they were flung together for the first two rounds of the US Open at Merion in 2013.
On that occasion they both shot 73-70, but neither was a factor at the weekend when Justin Rose won his first major.
Woods was in his customary final-day red and McIlroy wore a bright yellow top and white slacks as they strode onto a packed first tee outside the iconic Augusta National clubhouse.
First blood went to McIlroy who walloped a huge 354-yard drive down the left-hand side of the fairway. Woods, as he does often at Augusta, pulled it left, reaching the adjacent ninth fairway.
But they both came off the first green with pars and both then missed good birdie opportunities at the par-five second.
With Spieth and second place Justin Rose birdieing the first at the same moment, what had been a mountain to climb had already become mission impossible.
It was all about personal targets, with 39-year-old Woods out to show again that he is getting back to his best after a wretched start to the year and 25-year-old McIlroy looking to better his previous best Masters finish — a tie for eighth last year.
And then there was the quest for bragging rights over who came out tops when they went head to head over the finest arena in golf.
Who knows with many more majors to come and then there is always the Ryder Cup.
By the turn, some of the fans were peeling away to take in the final two pairings coming up behind — Phil Mickelson in the penultimate and Spieth and second-placed Rose in the main attraction.
McIlroy, who had been hoping to become just the sixth player to win all four Grand Slam titles coming into the tournament, finally nabbed a birdie with a superb approach to the seventh.
Woods was then left grimacing in pain when he injured his right wrist in hitting his approach shot from on top of pine straw at the ninth.
He went out in 37 to 34 for McIlroy.
– Tiger proud of effort –
The former world number one looked in bad trouble going down the 10th but he settled down again to tackle the famed trio of holes called Amen Corner.
With most eyes on Spieth’s successful efforts to hold off any challengers, Woods and McIlroy worked their homewards with the Northern Irishman coming in with an equal best of the day 66 to take fourth.
Woods, meanwhile, closed with a 73 and was tied for 17th at five under.
It was a frustrating day in some ways for two golfers used to being involved in the business end of tournaments.
But both were able to leave Augusta National with heads held high.
“Considering where I was at Torrey (Pines) and Phoenix, to make the complete swing change and rectify all the faults and come here to a major championship and contend, I’m proud of that part of it,” Woods said.