Rory McIlroy came close to relinquishing yet another PGA Tour lead in a frustrating manner on Sunday. Starting the day with a one-shot advantage, McIlroy encountered challenging gusty winds that plagued the Renaissance Club throughout the day, leading to the rescheduling of final-round tee times at the Scottish Open.
As McIlroy approached the 17th tee, Scotland’s own Robert MacIntyre, fueled by a remarkable birdie from the left fescue on the 18th, carded a Sunday 64, surpassing the World No. 3 and reaching a score of 14 under.
To level the playing field, McIlroy needed a par and a birdie in the last two holes, which were known to be the most challenging on the course. But he surpassed expectations.
At the 17th hole, McIlroy perfectly judged the mounds in front of the green, executing a 5-iron shot from 190 yards that bounced onto the front and gracefully curled around, landing just four-and-a-half feet away from the hole for a birdie. After tying with MacIntyre, McIlroy drove slightly off the fairway on the 18th, demonstrating his clutch performance once again.
Switching from a 4-iron to a 2-iron, McIlroy hit a laser-like shot from 205 yards, landing it just 11 feet away from the hole. With confidence, he sank the putt, shooting a 68 and finishing at 15 under to secure his first PGA Tour title in 2023. The putt seemed to dance in the wind, and McIlroy broke into laughter, gazing skyward as it disappeared.
“I’ve had a few close calls recently, so to get over the line and to gain this boost of confidence heading into next week and the rest of the season is tremendous,” McIlroy shared with CBS’ Amanda Renner on the 18th green.
This victory marks McIlroy’s 24th career PGA Tour win, 16th on the DP World Tour, and second on both tours this season. In the past few weeks, Rory McIlroy had been performing at an exceptional level, consistently finishing in the top 10 in his previous five starts, including a runner-up position at the U.S. Open.
During three of those events, Rory McIlroy held at least a share of the lead during the final round but was unable to seal the deal. However, with his remarkable shots on the last two holes, his fortunes changed at the perfect moment.
“These final two holes are right up there with the best of them,” McIlroy expressed to CBS, referring to his clutch performance. “I thought if I could birdie one of the last two and get into a playoff, that would be a bonus. To finish 2-3 in these conditions… it feels absolutely amazing.”
Both McIlroy and MacIntyre’s birdies on the 18th hole were only the second and third of the day, with the hole playing more than six-tenths of a shot over par despite the tees being moved up nearly 30 yards due to the strong winds. Despite MacIntyre’s tee shot veering left towards the fescue on the final hole, he received a fortunate break as the ball found a mowed-down path, enabling him to powerfully strike a fairway wood to just four feet from the hole.
MacIntyre’s final-round 64, the best of the day by a margin of two strokes, added to his quest of becoming the first Scottish player to win the national open since 1999.
Now, Rory McIlroy, having secured a victory on European soil for the first time since the 2016 Irish Open, heads south to Royal Liverpool, where he is already considered the favorite for the 151st Open Championship. It was at Royal Liverpool where McIlroy clinched his sole Open Championship title in 2014.
Recalling his prior successes, McIlroy mentioned, “It’s a great confidence boost. Having this fresh memory if I find myself in a similar position next week, where I have a chance to win with nine holes to go, I can certainly draw on what I accomplished here today.”
Source – Golf.com
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