Rory McIlroy played nearly flawless golf in blustery conditions on Monday in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, posting a five-under 65, 15-under total. McIlroy trailed 54-hole leader Paul Casey by six shots at the start of the day and ended up winning by two strokes after Casey closed with a three-over 73.
What’s most impressive perhaps is that McIlroy started the tournament par-bogey-triple — yep, he was four-over after three holes, but managed to turn it around and go 19-under for the remaining 69 holes to capture his first victory on the PGA Tour in 16 months. However, the 27-year-old from Northern Ireland did win the European Tour’s Irish Open in May in dramatic fashion.
This victory marked McIlroy’s 12th on the PGA Tour.
“I think if you had said to me after three holes on Friday that I would be sitting up here addressing you guys as the winner of this tournament, I would have told you to go somewhere,” said McIlroy in his post-round presser.
“It’s just incredible, this game, how quickly things can change and how quickly things can turn around. It’s been a great lesson for me this week not to get down on myself, to stay patient. As I said, after three holes on Friday, there was so much going through my head and none of those things involved sitting beside a trophy at the end of the week so it’s just been incredible. I played some great golf after that. 19-under par for my last 69 holes, and on this golf course in these conditions, very proud of myself for that.”
Tee times were moved up in the final round as the forecast called for extremely high winds in the afternoon, but it was still rather gusty and windy for the players. In other words, conditions were not easy.
When Casey walked off the course and discovered what Rory had shot, he only had high praise.
“Wow, yeah, very impressive,” said Casey. “Yeah, that’s a mighty round of golf. You know, I struggled a little bit from the get-go and it’s hard to regain rhythm and make your birdies if you hadn’t started out that way, so I found it incredibly difficult. I battled well, did a lot of things brilliantly all week, but obviously frustrated, just fell short at the last.”
McIlroy has struggled with his putting all year. Going into the second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs, he ranked 130th in strokes gained putting. He made some changes starting the other week at The Barclays, opting to switch to a Scotty Cameron prototype mallet. He also started working with a new putting coach Phil Kenyon. His goal was to start feeling comfortable over the putter by the Masters next April. Well, looks like he’s ahead of schedule.
“I found something in my putting,” said McIlroy. “Obviously my putting’s been the Achilles heel of my game this year. I tweaked a tiny little tweak on Saturday morning on the putting green, and I saw some putts go in and got some confidence from that. Just went with the momentum, and just really proud of myself that I was able to keep that momentum going, keep the same thoughts and not get negative if I did hit a bad putt, just really kept staying positive the whole way throughout the weekend.”
With just about every single putting coach in the world at his disposal, why did McIlroy choose Kenyon?
“I looked at all the guys that Phil works with, and none of them looked the same,” he said. “They all putt differently, they all have their different mannerisms, so I knew that Phil wasn’t going to have me get into a certain position that I didn’t want to be in or felt uncomfortable with. He was more you figure it out yourself a little bit, but this is what you need to do, this is where you need the putter to be at certain points in your stroke, and then just figure out a way to do it.
“Obviously he’s there to help and give me the numbers and give me everything. So I think you look at some of the — Louis that I played with today, he works with Phil and you look at Louis’ stroke compared to mine, it’s completely different, but we’re still working with the same person and still working on the same things. He just let’s us figure it out our own ways, and that’s the one thing that I really liked about him.”
McIlroy’s year has been plagued mostly with his putting woes and inconsistency. While he missed the cut at the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, he finished T10 and T5 at the Masters and Open Championship, respectively. At the same time, he was never a real factor at those events. However, because we’re talking about Rory McIlroy here, he’s scrutinized more as one of the best players in the world, as expectations for him are higher. At the Open in July, Johnny Miller suggested that Rory’s struggles were a result of him spending too much time in the gym (or something like that but even more ridiculous).
“I don’t know if any criticism is unfair,” said McIlroy when asked for the most unfair critical analysis he’d heard all year. “I think when people make judgments or criticisms without being educated on the subject that they’re criticizing, like for me getting in the gym, for example, that’s my pet peeve. Someone that says to me you’re in the gym too much. The reason that I play at such a high level, and hopefully will continue to play at a high level for the next 10, 15 years is because of the work I did in the gym. If I wasn’t in the gym, I wouldn’t be here sitting today. It’s a big part of who I am, it’s a big part of my success. That’s always I feel an unfair criticism.
“But with my game, the critics and the analysts and everyone that are out there, they’re educated about golf, so they for the most part know what they’re talking about. A criticism of my golf game, I take it, and I know what I need to work on and sometimes those people point out the obvious but, yeah, I would say that’s the most unfair criticism I receive, is what I do in the gym.”
Take that, Johnny!
Again, McIlroy was proud of the resiliency he showed despite his poor start.
“I stayed patient, I didn’t let the when you’re 4-over through three holes on the first round of a tournament, you can easily let that get away from you, you can get down on yourself early,” he said. “And I’ve done it before, I know. So to turn that around and shoot even par on Friday, that was I was really proud of that because I knew it was a pretty tricky day, there was a little bit of wind. Coming in off the course, when I came in, I shot even par and the leader was only 5 under, I was like, wow, I’m only five shots off the lead, I’ve done really well here to get it back.
“And then that kept me in a positive frame of mind going into Saturday morning. As I have alluded to, you know, holing some putts and seeing some putts drop and shooting a good score, that gave me confidence to go on to the last couple of days and play the way I did.
“I think I said to someone yesterday, I thought it’s a great opportunity being 4 over through three holes to do something that I had never done before, to be in that position and go on and win a golf tournament. I think even finishing in the top10 after that start on Friday would have been a very respectable result, but to be sitting up here and have won the tournament, I’m very proud of myself for that.”
Next up: the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick. The last time the third leg of the Playoffs was held at that venue was in 2012 — which was won by McIlroy after the last time he captured the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Perhaps this was the big breakthrough putting week that McIlroy needed for his confidence, which is great to see, but it’s not a good sign for the Americans with the Ryder Cup around the corner. But I think one thing’s for sure: We’re all happy to see McIlroy back in the winner’s circle.