Rory McIlroy wins Australian Open
Two wins in twelve months is really good for most players, but when you’re Rory McIlroy, you’re expected to do so much more. His much publicized equipment switch, plus other personal drama, which you could argue was overblown by the media, was supposed to be to blame for his relatively poor 2013 season.
Late Saturday night, on the East Coast anyway, McIlroy did battle with Adam Scott at Royal Sydney. Coming into the day, Scott had a commanding four shot lead and was attempting to win the Australian Grand Slam, having won a few weeks ago at both the Australian PGA and the Talisker Masters. If he could hang on for the win, he’d be only the second player to accomplish the feat, with fellow Aussie Robert Allenby being the lone man to do it back in 2005.
Paired in the final group together, Scott and McIlroy gave the boisterous Australian crowd quite the show, with both players putting on a supreme ball striking display. McIlroy cut the lead early as Scott just couldn’t seem to get the putter going, which would be a theme for the rest of the round. Scott had several chances on the back nine to shut the door on McIlroy, missing several birdie and eagle putts, which would have widened the gap.
The two players headed to the short par-4 18th with Scott holding a one-shot lead. Both players took iron off the tee and found the middle of the fairway, so the advantage was Scott’s. All he needed to do was put one on the green and he was probably assured of a win, and at the very least, a playoff with McIlroy, but he hit one of the few poor shots I’ve seen him hit in the last month. His approach looked decent, but it was about five yards too long, hitting the green and rolling off the back side into the gully. McIlroy had an opening and he took advantage, giving him about 13 feet uphill for birdie, which would be for the win after Scott fired his putt well past the hole. McIlroy calmly stepped up and hit the putt, and he had his first win since the 2012 DP World Tour Championship last November. Full final round highlights are embedded below.
More than winning the tournament, I’m sure McIlroy is just happy to not have to answer the questions about what’s wrong with his game. Since the move to Nike, for a rumoured $200+ million, he has been ripped for the move by just about anyone who had an opinion on it, from Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller to countless members of the golf media. Granted, this wasn’t the best possible field, but chasing down Adam Scott after a final round 66 to win by one shot shouldn’t be glossed over.
For months, I’ve been saying that people just needed to be patient and that he was simply too good to have this kind of a drought for too long, and this is the kind of payoff that I was talking about. The swing has started to look so much better in the last few months, and as he pointed out, his ongoing legal trouble had been weighing on him all year. This win is a big deal for him, and for the game of golf, which is simply much better with McIlroy winning tournaments. You can watch a clearly happy and relieved McIlroy talk to the press after the tournament below.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I think it’s pretty easy to forget at times that McIlroy is still just 24 years old. He’s in for a big 2014.
- It was a tough finish for Scott, but don’t feel too bad for the guy. There’s no one playing better golf than him right now, a mantle which he has taken with Henrik Stenson taking the last few weeks off, and much like McIlroy, he’s in for another great year in 2014.
- Nice to see John Senden get in to the 2013 Open Championship with his solo third finish.
- I hope Ted Bishop was watching this tournament and saw how passionate the Australian golf fans were all week. I know Scott was chasing history, but they showed a passion for the game that should be rewarded with a major championship. I love Royal Portrush, but Australia is the best landing spot for that first international major.