McIlroy magnificent in victory
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rory McIlroy considers it his most important shot of the year, one that ultimately led to victory yesterday in the Quail Hollow Championship and made him the youngest PGA Tour winner since Tiger Woods.
It wasn't the 5-iron up the steep hill on the 15th that settled 3 feet away for eagle. Nor was it the 7-iron out of the bunker on the 16th hole that was so good he didn't even bother to watch it land 5 feet from the cup.
The shot wasn't even on Sunday.
The 20-year-old from Northern Ireland was on the verge of missing his third cut in a row. He was two shots over the cut line with three holes to play late Friday afternoon when he fearlessly hit a 4-iron from 206 yards into the breeze and right over the water to 6 feet for an eagle. He made the cut on the number.
"The rest," he said with his engaging smile, "is history."
Was it ever.
McIlroy shot the lowest round each of the last two days at Quail Hollow, and the final round was nothing short of spectacular. Playing the final five holes in 5 under — and finishing with six 3s on his card — he set the course record with a 10-under 62 for a four-shot victory over Masters champion Phil Mickelson.
McIlroy finished in style, rolling in a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and thrusting his fist in the air, his freckled face bursting with joy as thousands of fans leapt from their chairs around the green.
"I suppose I got into the zone," said McIlroy, who celebrates his 21st birthday tomorrow. "I hadn't realized I was going in 9, 10 under. I just know I got my nose in front and I was just trying to stay there."
Woods was 20 years and 10 months when he won his first PGA Tour event in Las Vegas in 1996.
McIlroy's win capped a big Sunday for two of golf's brightest young stars. Earlier in the day, 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa became the first player on a major tour to shoot 58 in winning the Japan Golf Tour's Crowns event.
McIlroy delivered an awesome display of skill that left two-time major champion Angel Cabrera in his wake and put Mickelson too far behind to catch up.
With a one-shot lead, McIlroy hit a 5-iron into 3 feet for eagle on the 15th, followed with a birdie from the fairway bunker on the 16th, then nearly holed a 55-foot birdie across the green on the par-3 17th. The finish was sheer magic, a 40-foot putt that poured into the cup and set off a big celebration.
"The last two days, it seemed as if everything had just gone right," McIlroy said. "You get yourself into sort of a mindset like that, and you just keep going. It's just been a great day."
He finished at 15-under 273 and won $1.17 million.
Champions Tour: David Eger won the inaugural Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic for his first Champions Tour title since 2005, closing with a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory at Saucier, Miss. Eger finished at 11-under 205 to edge Tommy Armour III (67).
European PGA Tour: Alvaro Quiros became the first Spanish winner of the Spanish Open when he beat English rookie James Morrison with par on the first playoff hole at Seville, Spain. Quiros (70) and Morrison (67) each finished at 11-under 277.