Rory McIlroy secured his first win of the year in dramatic fashion, hitting a 5-wood from 253 yards to three feet, which he holed for eagle on the par-5 18th at the K Club to capture his home tournament, the Irish Open. The 27-year-old from Northern Ireland admitted to getting emotional as he waited for his playing partners Russell Knox and Masters champion Danny Willett to finish.
“I had a little bit of time on the green when Russell and Danny were finishing out, and I was trying to hold back the tears then,” said McIlroy, the world no. 3. “You know, golf-wise this week, it’s obviously very important to me but the work that we’ve put into this tournament and the work that we’ve put into the foundation, and the people that we are going help from this week, that’s probably more important.
“We’ve already raised over half a million Euros going into today for the three chosen charities, and then all the winnings go towards that, as well, so we’ve broken the million Euro mark this week, which is absolutely incredible. I don’t usually get emotional about golf or about wins, but this one, it means just a little bit more, because it’s not just for myself. It’s for a lot of other people. So it’s a day I’ll not forget for a while.
“To win The Irish Open, to win your National Open, you don’t get many opportunities to do it. I knew I needed to take this chance and I’m just glad I came up with the right shot at the right time.”
With his foundation hosting the tournament, McIlroy also donated his winner’s check of £515,500 (€666,660) to charity.
The shot of a champion. https://t.co/7EpcJKAbWH
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 22, 2016
McIlroy had struggled in recent years at the Irish Open — largely because of the massive expectations from his home crowd — with 2012 being the last time he made the cut and his previous best finish was seventh in 2008. It marked his first win on any tour since he secured the season-ending DP World Championship last November in Dubai. This year he’s carded six top-10 finishes, but had yet to close out for a victory. Even more impressive, McIlroy trailed Knox by a shot going into the 16th hole. Knox opened the door with a bogey, but McIlroy hit an incredible (and risky) 3-wood on the par-5 to set himself up for birdie and shifting the momentum to his favor.
“I was taking a risk,” said McIlroy. “…it was a huge turning point,” said McIlroy. He added that it was hard to keep his focus “when there’s 30,000 people roaring you on. The ovation I got when that ball landed on the 16th green sent shivers down my spine.”
The four-time major champion deeply needed this breakthrough at the Irish to ignite his mental game for the busy summer, where he’ll be competing in three majors in 10 weeks, not to mention the Olympics.
“I felt I needed a week like this to kick-start something,” he said. “No better place than back here at home in Ireland.
(Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)