McIlroy nearly pulls off a victory at Arnold Palmer Invitational

ORLANDO -- Rory McIlroy was leaderboard-watching on the final hole Sunday afternoon. As it turned out, he needed to be.

Already with seven birdies in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, McIlroy was safely on the last green, 31 feet away, when he noticed Marc Leishman had eagled the 16th hole and leapfrogged him into first place on the leaderboard.

McIlroy then proceeded to knock his birdie attempt past the hole by eight feet, then missed the comebacker, leaving him with a bogey and final-round 3-under 69 that was good enough for a share of fourth place, two behind Leishman, the eventual winner.

"I wanted to give it a run, at least," he said of the birdie putt. "I read the putt well, I just read it as if I was hitting it normal speed, and I took all the break out of it. But, yeah, just one of those things. I walked up the last and saw that Leishman had eagled 16 and went to 11 [under], so I thought I need to make this to have a chance."

The end result was McIlroy's third top-10 finish in as many appearances this year.

Despite failing to close out the victory, McIlroy maintained that he took some optimism out of his second tournament back following a rib injury that sidelined him for nearly two full months.

Following an over-par start at the halfway point, he posted 10-under during the weekend rounds, including 14 total birdies.

"I don't feel too bad about myself," he said. "I gave it a good run today, I played well, a lot of positives to take going into, obviously, Match Play next week, but ultimately Augusta in a few weeks time ... I found it a little bit on the weekend, and it's just nice to get to play again and get to feel like you're playing a run of events."

This week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship will be McIlroy's final start before the Masters, a title he needs in order to become the sixth golfer in history to claim the career Grand Slam.

He's already taken one scouting trip to Augusta and said he's planning on another before Masters week, with the opening round of the year's first men's major coming April 6.

Though he's yet to win this year, McIlroy finished runner-up in South Africa and tied for seventh in Mexico before this week's share of fourth.

"It's been good," he said of his recent performance. "I haven't had the win that I've wanted, but it's been good, consistent play and that hopefully bodes well for the year ahead."