This story couldn’t have been scripted. Rory McIlroy, who revealed he’d broken off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki at the start of the week, headed into the final round trailing by seven strokes, and absolutely tore up the back nine to win the BMW PGA Championship. McIlroy’s five-under 32 on the closing nine at Wentworth, a course where he’s traditionally struggled, included birdies on the final two holes to nip Irishman Shane Lowry by one.
After Rory was declared the winner of the European Tour’s flagship event, he said, “I felt like I was coming in here playing really well. Coming off the back of a lot of top 10s, and everything fell my way today. Thomas [Bjorn] had a big lead, he slipped up a little bit on the front nine, and I took advantage of that.” With the leaders falling back to Rory, it came down to the short game to get it done, “Three key up and downs the last three holes, and that’s what ended up winning it for me.”
Thomas Bjorn had a five-stroke lead over Luke Donald heading into the final round. It all unraveled for Bjorn on the front nine with a bogey on five, a triple bogey on six, and a bogey on nine. At the time, Rory wasn’t quite making his move, but instead, Shane Lowry was emerging as the main contender.
Lowry took the lead with three straight birdies on the back nine, but then double-bogeyed the thirteenth. Rory started to make his move on the back with a chip in birdie on ten and consecutive birdies on twelve and thirteen. He took the outright lead with a birdie on seventeen, and gave himself a much needed cushion with a birdie on eighteen.
“My caddie JP (Fitzgerald) set me the target of 15-under today,” said McIlroy. “I didn’t quite get there but 14-under was enough. I really wanted to win before going into the second Major of the season (the US Open from June 12th-15th) and I could not have asked for a better way to prepare.”
Lowry came up one stroke short after nailing a 50-foot bomb for birdie on the last. He said, “To hole the putt on the last and to finish second on my own is really nice. It’s given me a lot of World Ranking points and a lot of Race to Dubai points, as well. So a lot of positives to take from the week.”
Rory’s excellent form coming into the BMW PGA was overshadowed by his breakup with Wozniacki. He’s had four straight top-10s in his last four starts, including a T8 at The Masters and a T6 at The Players.
When asked about his emotions (aka his breakup), Rory was not in a celebratory mood, “Yeah it is, it’s a roller coaster. I’m not exactly sure how I’m feeling right now to be honest. I’m happy that I won, obviously. It’s great. It’s great for my career, and it’s great for everything, but I have mixed emotions.”
With Rory’s game peaking, he will be the early favorite to capture the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in a couple weeks. McIlroy will have one more start prior to the U.S. Open. He’s playing in next week’s Memorial Tournament, hosted by Jack Nicklaus, at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
With this win:
• His sixth European Tour International Schedule victory in his 134th European Tour event.
• Moves to second place in The Race to Dubai with earnings of €1,295,825.
• His first European Tour victory since the 2012 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
• Becomes the first player from Northern Ireland to win the BMW PGA Championship.
• This victory beats his previous best performance in the BMW PGA Championship of fifth, in 2009.
• Began the final day seven shots behind the 54-hole leader, Thomas Björn. This equals the largest final round comeback in the history of the Championship, set by Simon Khan in 2010.
• It is only the second of his six European Tour victories where he has made up a final round deficit to win. Made up three shot to win the 2011 Hong Kong Open, and seven at the 2014 BMW PGA Championship.
• His seven shot final round comeback is the largest since Robert Green made up seven at the 2010 Portugal Masters.
• His first European Tour victory in England and first on European soil.
• The fourth destination in which he has won European Tour events. They are: Dubai (twice), England, Hong Kong and the United States (twice).
• The first player from Northern Ireland to win on The European Tour since Michael Hoey at the 2013 M2M Russian Open.
• Becomes only the second Irishman to win the Championship, and the first since Harry Bradshaw in 1958.
–Bernie D’Amato (@bdamato711), edited by Stephanie Wei