This year, it became simple to overlook Rory McIlroy’s four major victories, 30 victories across four continents, and two years as the world’s top player. He has primarily been regarded as the PGA Tour’s biggest advocate and steadfast defender in its battle with Saudi-funded LIV Golf.
So perhaps it was only natural that McIlroy won the tournament’s top prize on Sunday to cap off a tumultuous year for the PGA Tour.
He had the last word, using his clubs.
“It’s been a tumultuous time for the world of men’s professional golf in particular,” he said. “I’ve been in the thick of things. I guess every chance I get, I’m trying to defend what I feel is the best place to play elite professional golf in the world.
“It’s in some ways fitting that I was able to get this done today to sort of round off a year that has been very, very challenging and different.”
The No. 1 player in the world, Scottie Scheffler, who won the Masters, suffered as a result. Scheffler finished the storm-delayed third round at 66 and took a six-shot lead. Even McIlroy, who completed the morning’s final two holes with birdies to join the final group, didn’t think he had a great chance.
Scheffler eventually lost his rhythm, missing fairways, greens, and par putts. He tied the PGA Tour record for losing a six-shot lead in the final round by making only one birdie in his final round of 73.
“I just didn’t get off to a good start early, but after that I grinded as hard as I could,” Scheffler said. “For whatever reason my swing wasn’t where it had been the first few days this week.”
McIlroy posted the best raw score of the week with a 263 at 17 under. As the No. 7 seed, he got out to a 4 under start and finished at 21 under to win the $18 million prize.
Sungjae Im lost ground with a double bogey on the fourteenth hole but still finished with a 66 to tie Scheffler for second place.
Not just because of the pro-McIlroy audience that chanted his name throughout the last few holes, McIlroy described the final round as a “spectacle.”
He described the match as “Two of the best players in the world going head-to-head on the best tour.”
Scheffler provided a lot of assistance for McIlroy since he never fell behind until the 70th hole. Early on, Scheffler had a strange appearance, and McIlroy took advantage. He equaled Scheffler on the seventh hole after making three straight birdies. The rest of the way was a nail-biter.
East Lake witnessed a stunning display that activated two shots.
On the par-3 15th hole, McIlroy made a 30-foot birdie putt to tie for the lead.
His pitch was running quickly and heading off the front of the green when it hit the pin and settled 7 feet away after he sailed the green by about 20 yards. He made the par. When Scheffler launched his shot from a bunker to just within 10 feet and missed, it was his first bogey of the week and it placed him in the hole.
Scheffler made a terrible error in judgement when given a 10-foot birdie opportunity on the 17th hole to tie, which forced the Tour Championship’s $18 million-dollar final hole.
On the par-5 18th hole, Scheffler’s 4-iron landed short and to the right into a bunker, and he blasted over the green. McIlroy took a step back and turned left to avoid the bleachers before reaching the green for a simple par.
Scheffler stated, “I wanted to win the season-long title.” “I’ve had a really great year and I wanted to finish it off with a win here, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that.”
In a playoff, McIlroy took home the FedEx Cup in 2016. In 2019, the first year of a staggered start, he repeated his FedEx Cup victory. After a year in which the PGA Tour fought bitterly with LIV Golf, which has already attracted about two dozen players and is now a defendant in an antitrust action against the PGA Tour, this may have been the sweetest of all.
When competing leagues started to take shape over the previous few years, it was McIlroy who vowed to be fiercely committed to the PGA Tour. And it was Tiger Woods and McIlroy who organised a historic player-only meeting last week that resulted in important upcoming changes for the tour.
So, certainly, there was a higher level of satisfaction with this. And no, he wasn’t bothered by the responsibility of serving as the tour’s de facto voice.
“If you believe in something I think you have to speak up, and I believe very strongly about this. I really do,” McIlroy said. “I hate what it’s doing to the game of golf. I hate it.
Even at the Tour Championship, which is generally a celebration of the year’s finale, speculation of upcoming defections remained all weekend. Cameron Smith, the British Open champion, reportedly left for LIV Golf three weeks ago, and sources have since confirmed that he will be moving to ESPN.
According to sources cited by ESPN, Harold Varner III, Marc Leishman, and Anirban Lahiri are also likely to depart. On Twitter, Cameron Tringale made his decision public.
Joaquin Niemann’s fate is still up in the air; according to his manager, the Chilean golfer will debate his options with his father later on Sunday.
“Everyone on tour has had to deal with a lot,” McIlroy said. “Even the guys that have went to LIV have had to deal with a lot. It’s just been a very tumultuous sort of era in our game. This is the best place in the world to play golf. It’s the most competitive. It’s got the best players. It’s got the deepest fields. I don’t know why you’d want to play anywhere else.”
With all that speculation, the Tour Championship, which appeared to be a runaway, became an exciting spectacle. The biggest voice on the tour ultimately won the largest trophy.
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