Monday Finish: Rory rolls on while Todd turns it around
November 04, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy's Round 4 highlights from WGC-HSBC Champions
What a weekend. Rory McIlroy continued his incredible 2019 with another victory at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions. That makes it four wins in his last 15 PGA TOUR starts. The reigning FedExCup champion probably wishes the 2020 season of championships was right around the corner. But that wasn’t the only story this past week. Brendon Todd completed a serious career turnaround with his win at the Bermuda Championship. Todd had entered the 2019 calendar year having made the cut in just six of his previous 47 starts. From the depths of the yips, Todd never gave up, and now he is a winner again.
Welcome to the Monday Finish.
THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS
1. A commitment to forward progress. Rory McIlroy – like most humans – has learned plenty as he matures in life. Now 30, McIlroy has decided the best way to increase his legacy is to go hard or go home. There is no protecting leads anymore for McIlroy. It’s just foot to the floor with trust in his aggressive style. After 54 holes in China, McIlroy sat in the lead and had just one strategy in mind: keep making birdies. He did just that. At the end of 72 holes, he still had the lead, albeit shared with defending champion Xander Schauffele. But when they went to a playoff and McIlroy drew the chance to hit first, he once again thought nothing but aggression. “I knew that was the big moment because I could hit a drive down the fairway and put the pressure on him,” McIlroy said. And that's what he did with a booming drive that would lead to an easy birdie. Schauffele couldn’t match it and his brave charge ended. Read more about McIlroy’s 18th PGA TOUR win here.
2. Consistency and confidence. Fresh off one of the best statistical seasons ever on the PGA TOUR, McIlroy continues to produce beautiful, consistent golf. After the third round, his confidence came shining through when he said, “Right now, the game feels pretty simple.” In China, his accuracy was actually fairly average as he hit just 34 of 56 fairways and 52 of 72 greens. Usually he is dominating with the driver and striping his approaches from great spots. But this season, in his two starts, the consistency has come in scoring. McIlroy has notched a top-10 finish in 16 of his last 21 starts on the PGA TOUR. He opened the 2019-20 season with a 2-over 72 in Japan. His highest score in the seven rounds since is 68. He’s 34 under in those seven rounds, making just eight bogeys in that span and averaging 66.3 strokes per round.
3. Never give up. We now pivot to the key factor for Brendon Todd and his sublime effort at the Bermuda Championship. After he won the 2014 AT&T Byron Nelson, you could not have scripted the path Todd would take. In 2015-16, he missed 25 of 29 cuts. His spiral would send him outside the top 2000 in the world. The journey is a long and detailed one. Read about it all here. But the bottom line is, on Sunday in Bermuda, Todd started in contention and his comeback was put under final round pressure. His response? A 9-under 62 and a four-shot win. No matter how bad it gets, you can always find a way to fight your way out.
Time is now up for Presidents Cup hopefuls to prove themselves. Tiger Woods and Ernie Els will make their four captain's picks each later this week to round out their squads of 12 for the showdown at Royal Melbourne Dec. 12-15. On the U.S. side of the coin, Woods is expected to pick himself after his incredible record-tying 82nd PGA TOUR win in Japan. Others in line include Gary Woodland, who finished behind Woods at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner, Chez Reavie and Patrick Reed. Reed left a decent last impression with a final round 66 in China. On the International side of the coin, PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Sungjae Im continued to impress in China with a T11 finish. Byeong Hun An, Jazz Janewattananond and Corey Conners also tried to make late claims. Jason Day was dormant this week, and aside from a Japan Skins win, didn’t set the world on fire on the Asian swing, but should still garner a spot. Joaquin Niemann’s win at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier has him in good shape. Branden Grace will need to rely on past deeds after his poor form continued with a missed cut in Bermuda. Read more on the contenders here.
Xander Schauffele is better than most people still give him credit for. Despite having the flu all week, Schauffele found his way into a playoff in his World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions title defense. He had to birdie two late holes, including the 72nd, to get it to extra holes against Rory McIlroy. He’s a feisty bulldog and the PGA TOUR is lucky to have him. It won’t be long before he will be a winner again, and it will be no surprise if it comes at THE PLAYERS or a major championship. “My time will come. Looking forward to getting healthy. Not coughing. Sleeping,” he said. “It was a lot of fun and I'm glad I tried to put on a show for everyone out here.”
Haotong Li will take valuable experience from his home event. The 25-year-old took the first round lead in Shanghai, and despite some dips from there, found himself right in the mix early Saturday in the third round. Five birdies in six holes had him rejoin the lead and the possibility of the first Chinese winner of a World Golf Championship was in the cards. But as quickly as he moved into contention, he dove out of it. Five bogeys and a triple bogey later, Li’s dreams were over. The lesson here was brutal. And will sting a while. But if Li can harness it and react differently, the next time his adrenalin kicks in, the value will be limitless. He will be a vital cog in the International Presidents Cup team in December.
“Maybe more so than say when I first came out on TOUR, I try 100 per cent over every shot, I think because I realize I don't have as much time left as I used to when I was 20. Even if I'm having a bad day, I'm trying over every single shot. My concentration is better and my mental capacity on the golf course is much better than it ever has been, and I think that's a big key to why I'm able to play consistently week-in, week-out.” – Rory McIlroy after his win.
“I was talking to my manager about potentially opening up another business.” – Brendon Todd talking about getting near giving up before fighting on and ultimately winning again.
“Unfortunately a good attitude doesn't make you hit it 350. But I tried, I tried my best. Played great. I did. I beat him on the day just to get in a playoff, and a little bit of déjà vu unfortunately and I couldn't pull it off.” – Xander Schauffele after his runner up finish to McIlroy.
“To come out and play like I did on Sunday, the day that really matters, to go out and shoot a low one… I know at the end of the day, Tiger will pick the guys he feels like are the best for the team to help win the Cup.” – Patrick Reed with a last ditch plea to captain Tiger Woods.
A great ending to a special week in Shanghai!— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) November 3, 2019
Thank you to @HSBC_Sport for putting on such a wonderful tournament. It gets better and better every year. The support was amazing this week with the biggest crowds yet. It’s fun to see the excitement for the sport growing in China! pic.twitter.com/n4M2cMmMVf