Rory McIlroy aimed a 26 -tournament drought, going back to September 2016, to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by three shoots in Florida while Tiger Woods tied for fifth
This is not the biggest win of Rory McIlroy’s career but it is without question among the most significant. A day supposedly to confirm Tiger Woods’s status as the returning hero instead belonged to McIlroy, for whom, too, injury frustrations have dogged much of his recent past. McIlroy corroborated his key part in the narrative for the Masters next month.
Victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, McIlroy’s first tournament success for 18 months, transpired after the kind of rocket-fuelled Sunday which sceptics indicated the Northern Irishman could no longer produce.
McIlroy’s closing 64 entail he won by three at 18 under par; he had started the day two adrift of the leading. Bryson DeChambeau claimed second place, one stroke clear of Justin Rose. Henrik Stenson, the 54 -hole leader, was fourth at 13 under. Yet this was McIlroy’s day. Festivities of his last win, at the Tour Championship in September 2016, were cut short as news circulated of Palmer’s death.
It seemed somehow fitting that McIlroy returned to the winner’s circle- and in such swashbuckling style- at the event presided over by the golfing legend for so many years.
He said he had felt good during his tournaments in the Middle East at the start of the year and added:” I kept telling everyone I was close. Nobody would believe me but I knew it.
” I had a rough patch at the start of the Florida swing but in golf it is never that far gone, just as when you are playing well you’re not far away from playing severely. I had a really good weekend of practise after missing the cut last week and it has paid off right away.
” It was awesome to feel the buzz of being around the lead on the back nine. I have missed it, I really have.
” To play the golf I did under that pressure I’m so proud of myself and so happy to get the win. I guess I gave myself a chance for birdie on almost every hole. I played a perfect round of golf .”
The trigger for McIlroy’s triumph came with a run of four birdies from the 13 th. He was to collect shoots at five of the last six holes. At the 15 th, having watched an approach shot roll from the green, he chipped in.
His drive at the following hole measured 373 yards. If such power is almost taken for granted, it was McIlroy’s putting- such a problem in recent times- which had markedly improved over the course of four days in Orlando.
He holed out in superb style from 25 ft at the last and his galas showed how much this win meant.” I have find Tiger build that putt on 18 here so many times, I knew what it was going to do ,” the four-time major champ added.” I wanted to create my own bit of history. I freed up with my putting the coming week. I didn’t worry too much about mechanics .”
Woods was within one of the leadon the par-five 16 th, a pit he had birdied on each of the previous three days. This time he drove well left and out of binds; a bogey six to all intents aimed his hopes of winning the tournament for a ninth period, albeit he couldn’t have reached McIlroy’s tally anyway. Another Woods dropped shot at the 17 th contributed to a 69 and aggregate of 10 under.
Woods has now posted 10 consecutive rounds of par or better and top-1 0 finishes in back-to-back weeks.” If you had said to me at the beginning of the year that I’d have a chance to wintwo golf tournaments, I would have taken that in a heartbeat ,” told an upbeat Woods.” I felt pretty good out there. I hit the ball better than I did last week .”
Woods will reappear at the Masters, which he last won in 2005, while his last major victory came in 2008 at the US Open. McIlroy’s odds on ending his wait for the completion of a career grand slam at Augusta National- four years after winning his last major, the US PGA at Valhalla- have suddenly become a whole lot shorter.
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