Following his second-career major title at last month’s PGA Championship, Rory McIlroy didn’t waste much time to find his way back to the winner’s circle. Just twenty-two days after hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy in Kiawah Island, McIlroy overcame a three-shot deficit early in Monday’s final round at the Deustche Bank Championship and held on to capture his third victory on the PGA Tour this season.
The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland didn’t play his best in the final nine (i.e. the “wedge” he hit off the tee on No. 15), but he still beat 54-hole leader Louis Oosthuizen, who hurt his shoulder on the 5th hole, where he posted a double-bogey. The 2010 Open Champion golfer of the year recovered rather well and managed to keep the pressure on Rory with birdies on Nos. 13 and 15, and a putt to force a playoff on the 72nd hole. Oosthuizen, who arguably has the most fundamentally sound swing in the world, didn’t have enough left in him to overtake McIlroy after losing the lead on the front nine.
While Rory didn’t cruise to the finish line, he grinded and beat a packed leaderboard filled with marquee names besides Oosthuizen, including Tiger Woods, who also made a run with a string of birdies on the front nine but couldn’t get it done to catch Rory coming down the stretch, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, among others.
“He’s not world No. 1 for nothing,” said Louis in his post-round press conference. “He’s a great young talent, a lot of majors left for him to win. You know, he’s such a cool kid and cool guy on the course.
“It’s great playing with him. I mean, he makes tough shots look really easy sometimes, especially long irons. He did well today. I don’t think the back nine he hit that ball that great after what he did on the front nine, but he did what he had to do.”
Until the front nine on Monday, McIlroy wasn’t striking the ball that well, which was interesting since that’s his strength. He was making up the strokes on the greens, though. He’s an aggressive player and he didn’t let the previous three rounds deter him from attacking pins. It finally clicked on he rolled off five birdies and one bogey in the first eight holes to catch and overtake Louis.
“Once I got into the lead, I felt very comfortable and just tried to keep applying the pressure, hit fairways, hit greens, and it worked for the most part,” said Rory, who shot four-under 67 in the final round. “Obviously, I had a couple wobbles there coming in, but did enough in the early part of the round to have enough of a cushion to get the job done.”
If there was any doubt left that boy wonder (he’s 23 and clearly mature beyond his years, but not quite old enough to graduate to super-man status…or is he?) is the best player in the world, his victory in the second leg of the FedExCup PLAYOFFS should validate his position.
It’s not just about the world ranking, either. McIlroy’s talent and abilities are simply superior to his peers and he’s certainly well-respected by them, which includes his new BFF Tiger Woods. Rory’s victory at the DBC was not a major but it was a huge step toward solidifying his place the greatest player not only of his generation but also in the game.
“I think I’ve just learned how to handle winning big events and carrying myself forward and not dwelling on what’s happened, just moving forward and trying to win another golf tournament,” said McIlroy. “There’s a time and a place to celebrate and to enjoy what you’ve done, and going into the Playoffs isn’t it. You have to just focus on the week ahead. I’ll get to Crooked Stick (site of the BMW Championship) tomorrow and start to prepare for that tournament.
“This run that we’re on, we just have to keep thinking about the next week, and once Ryder Cup is over, for sure I’ll think back and I’ll celebrate and I’ll enjoy the great golf that I’ve played over the last few weeks.”
Still got questions about what Rory’s priorities are? There you have it.
Welcome the new face of golf. The changing of the guard started long ago, but let’s say it was when Rory won his first major, the 2011 U.S. Open. Now it’s almost complete, but it’s not just McIlroy dominating the spotlight. It’s a shared space occupied by Tiger and Rory, which couldn’t be better for the game. Oh, they’re paired together again this week at the BMW Championship, so you won’t have to wait long to marvel at their bromance — and enjoy watching this new friendly Tiger Woods, who was chatting and laughing with the standard bearer in his group while walking down the 7th fairway — WTF? My thoughts exactly.
Maybe Rory just brings the best out of people. If you watched Louis and Rory the past two days, it was genuinely a joy to watch them chat, laugh and have fun in the last two rounds. A little weird and different because we’re still getting used to this kind of camaraderie between competitors who are supposed to want to rip the throat out of their opponents, but this is a new era. I mean, wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the runner-up congratulate the winner with a bigger smile and friendlier embrace than Louis did after missing his putt for birdie and losing the tournament to Rory. To be fair, Louis is a happy-go-lucky and laid-back (almost to a fault) guy, so not a big surprise.
Meanwhile, Tiger finally played well for four consecutive rounds. Despite winning three times this season so far, it’s the first time Woods has posted four straight scores in the 60s.
Good job, good effort!
(Sorry, couldn’t resist…inside joke from this morning and my new BFFs at OS)
The most notable takeaway on Monday evening from the DBC? When Tiger plays his best, he still couldn’t beat Rory. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing some memorable battles between those two in the upcoming years.
Obviously, Rory isn’t going to win all of them, but he’ll come out ahead more often than not. No, I’m not hating on Tiger at all. I’m loving this new Tiger and the Rory-Tiger friendly rivalry. It’s great for the game. I’m just being realistic and factoring in age. Rory is 23 and Tiger is 36 (turns 37 in December).
(Getty Images/Warren Little)