The smiles belied his assassin instincts. When it mattered, Rory McIlroy delivered and it didn’t matter that the scapegoat in the drama was a favorite son of those watching his chilling completion of the job, as the Northern Irishman sensationally finished birdie-birdie for a close 68 for a total of 15 under par 265 to win the Genesis Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club.
Poor Robert MacIntyre. In truth, the left-handed Scotsman had played the best golf ever in a final round that prompted early morning alarm calls to end the tournament before the forecast bad weather front enveloped the Linksland in East Lothian.
Signing in for a remarkable 64 – highlighted by a magnificent birdie on the last, where he hit a 212-yard fairway wood approach from the rough at 10ft – MacIntyre, along with his Irish caddie Greg Milne, had set the target for the clubhouse and had left him watching McIlroy’s chase on TV, then moved to the training ground in the event of a playoff.
It never happened.
Instead, McIlroy, the 54-hole leader but messy on the front nine where he had four priceless bogeys and two birdies while turning 37, pulled himself together on a wonderfully sailed back nine where he didn’t. has not dropped another. shot. He also bagged four birdies to dash home fans’ hopes of Scottish success in the event, which is co-sanctioned on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
If McIlroy’s failure to birdie the par-five 16 had raised MacIntrye’s hopes of a decisive PGA Tour victory and his career-changing possibilities, his play of par-three 17 and notoriously difficult 18 in the teeth of the 25 mile -hour wind set off its brilliance.
First, McIlroy rolled in a five-footer for a birdie on 17 to close in on MacIntyre. Then on the 18th, after his practice ended in the first cut, effectively ending in an old divot, McIlroy and caddy Harry Diamond finally settled on a two iron for the 202-yard approach. It was beautifully executed, cutting through the wind on a right-to-left approach that settled 10 feet from the spit.
If his task was made a little more difficult by watching one of his playing partners, Tom Kim, three putts for a double bogey inside that distance, as the American looked to finish and s get out of McIlroy’s way, it didn’t go off the rails. him. McIlroy might have thought the ball was going to drift off his line halfway through the cup, but it fell and brought him a huge smile as he savored a first PGA Tour victory of the year and a second victory of the season on the DP World Tour, to accompany his victory at the Dubai Desert Classic in January.
The victory earned him a salary of 1.4 million euros and increased McIlroy’s lead atop the DP World Tour Order of Merit and gave him a valuable boost towards the 151st Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool, where it won the last time it was hosted there. 2014.
“I’m really proud. It was such a tough, tough day, especially the back nine. To play that nine-for-four under par to win the tournament, yeah, really proud of how I stayed there.
“I landed some amazing shots in the stretch and was able to finish with a really nice putt there. It’s amazing. It’s kind of been six long months since I won in Dubai. I feel I’m given tons of chances, and hopefully this win breaks the seal for me, especially next week as well,” McIlroy said.
On the tournament-winning approach to the 18th green, McIlroy explained:
“I was right between the four iron and the two iron. I took out three irons [of the bag] at the start of the week, and it was probably a perfect three iron. But the four iron only came to the front edge of the green; two irons, I had to cut it and try to put it a bit in the wind and I hit that two iron and it went perfectly. Probably the best shot I’ve made all year. It was exactly how I wanted to play it.
“When you hit a shot like that, I felt like I deserved to punch that putt to finish it.”