March 5 2012
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- There’s little argument who the best player in the world is, literally or figuratively. At least at the moment.
Rory McIlroy shot a 1-under 69 Sunday to win The Honda Classic by two shots, withstanding an epic charge from Tiger Woods to move to fourth in the FedExCup standings and the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I think the way I won today … I made a couple big par saves early,” McIlroy said. “It was just one of those days. There was a 62 and a 63 out there, which is unbelievable playing. I just needed to focus on my game and do what I needed to do, and thankfully that's what happened.”
The 62 came from Woods, who put on a charge eerily similar to the one he had during the final round of the 2011 Masters. Similarly, it wasn’t enough to overcome the hole he’d put himself in.
Woods went out in 31 then matched that number on the back, highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 18th that sent the crowd into a frenzy. There was a fist pump from Woods, who carded his lowest round since the third round of the 2009 BMW Championship, and the roar was heard all the way back to the 13th hole where McIlroy was playing.
“I couldn't really think about it too much. I just had to concentrate on what I was doing,” McIlroy said.
Coming off his only bogey of the day, McIlroy answered with a birdie of his own and never led by fewer than two the rest of the day.
“It was nice to have that two-shot cushion going into the last five holes after holing that birdie putt,” McIlroy continued.
McIlroy parred in from there and for the week played the infamous Bear Trap -- Nos. 15, 16 and 17 -- in a combined 3 under with three birdies and no bogeys.
He played the rest of the course pretty well, too. For the week, McIlroy was sixth in putting and 10th in greens in regulation.
“My putting has been really good, especially today,” McIlroy said. “I made a couple of big par saves early, and then made the putts I needed to.
“That was big this week, saving par, which I managed to do today very well.”
Others made big charges too -- Lee Westwood finished fourth after a 63, and Tom Gillis had a career-best tie for second after 1-under 69 as he hung with McIlroy nearly all afternoon -- but in the end this day was all about McIlroy.