Rory KO’s AK in First Playoff Hole at Shanghai
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour

Nice mullet, man

Though it was a non-sanctioned, limited-field, no-cut event, Rory McIlroy made a statement winning the Shanghai Masters, along with the $2 million check, the richest prize in golf. Winless since his dominating U.S. Open victory in June at Congressional, McIlroy had the opportunity to win in regulation, but missed an eight-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, with tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki watching from a luxury box by the green.

Before I go into more details, I have to ask — what’s going on with Anthony Kim’s hair? Is he trying to bring the mullet back?

Speaking of which, perhaps just as notable as Rory’s victory was AK showing some return to form. Kim was off to a great season in 2010 — a win at the Shell Houston Open, third at the Masters, etc. — but he was playing with a hand injury, which benched him for three months after last year’s Quail Hollow Championship in May. Since his return, he’s made a few cameos, including a tie for fifth at the British Open in July, but he’s failed to maintain any consistency.

AK, who shot three-under 69 Sunday, missed a three-footer on the first playoff hole, opening the door for Rory to make a two-footer for the win.

McIlroy gave an optimistic prognostication on what lies ahead for Kim, tweeting, “AK played great, Expecting good things from him next season!”

Rory admitted he didn’t have his A game Sunday, but he didn’t let up.

“It’s something that I feel I can get better at: winning and putting yourself in the position to win when you’re not playing your best,” he said. “Even if it’s scrappy golf, where you grind it out, you’re going to win a lot more tournaments by doing that. I was very happy I was able to pull this one out.”

In his last three starts on the European Tour, he finished third, third and second — consistent performances, but McIlroy was frustrated not to walk away with victories. (Still hard for me to believe that the Shanghai Masters was only Rory’s fourth career win.)

While the Shanghai Masters title comes with an asterisk (since it was arguably a money grab), Rory beat a strong field and the win gave him a nice confidence boost before this week’s HSBC Champions, a World Golf Championship event, also held in Shanghai.

(AP Photo)