McIlroy completes the unexpected at TPC Boston
September 05, 2016
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Rory McIlroy started the day six shots back of the leader and ended up winning the Deutsche Bank Championship by two. (Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)
NORTON, Mass. – A few years ago, this wouldn’t have happened. He would have checked out, slumped his shoulders and tried to make the quickest exit possible. In fact, he did just that at the 2013 Honda Classic, leaving in the middle of his second round.
Heck, even four days ago, when he played the first three holes in 4 over, all kinds of thoughts crept through his head.
“None of those things involved sitting beside a trophy at the end of the week,” said Rory McIlroy.
But there it was Monday afternoon, the Deutsche Bank Championship trophy within arm’s reach to his right and some type of heavyweight belt to his left, the rewards from a week of resiliency and stick-to-itiveness.
For the first time in his career, McIlroy produced a victory after the most disheartening of starts. He played his final 69 holes at TPC Boston in 19 under, and on Labor Day, he produced the most important round of the week, defying tricky wind gusts for a 6-under 65 to win by two strokes over 54-hole leader Paul Casey.
It’s the second time in four years he’s won the Deutsche Bank Championship, with this one moving him to No. 4 in the FedExCup Playoffs standings going into Thursday’s third leg, the BMW Championship.
It seemed unlikely four days ago.
Even before his par-bogey-triple bogey start on Friday, McIlroy came to TPC Boston facing questions – mostly about his putting. He had entered the week ranked 130th in the PGA TOUR’s primary putting statistic – strokes gained: putting – and had taken drastic measures to fix the problem. Specifically, a new putter, along with a new coach in Phil Kenyon.
Rory McIlroy interview after winning Deutsche Bank
While he was hopeful the changes would eventually pay off – he mentioned a time-frame that included the Masters next year – he didn’t expect immediate results. Starting off so poorly on Friday didn’t help matters.
But he found something over those last 15 holes, going a bogey-free 4 under to finish his round at even par. The bounce-back effort had him enthused, even if his putting still wasn’t cooperating. Then on the practice green Saturday morning, he found something else. He made a small tweak to his putting grip, adjusting his right hand to place it more on the top of his grip than the side.
“A very simple fix,” he said.
It helped keep the face square through impact. And it helped McIlroy zoom up the leaderboard.
On Sunday, starting the day six shots off the lead, McIlroy got off to exactly the start he needed. Five birdies on the front side, including three straight before the turn, left him tied with Casey. He then made another birdie at the par-4 12th – a hole that’s been feast-or-famine for him all week, with a triple bogey, a birdie and a double bogey in his previous three rounds.
Meanwhile, Casey bogeyed the 11th. Suddenly, McIlroy was up by two shots. He was in control of the tournament now. He would not be denied. He bogeyed the par-4 17th but figured a birdie on the par-5 finishing hole would seal the deal. Considering he was 12 under on the par 5s this week, it was easy to predict what would happen.
Not so easy to predict it, however, in the unpredictable winds.
“Very impressive,” Casey said of McIlroy’s 65. “That’s a mighty round of golf … I played some good stuff today. I wasn’t missing with birdies. But I felt like I stayed pretty tough. His round of golf, you know, should really be applauded. That’s stellar stuff.”
Said McIlroy: “Six shots behind the lead, I didn’t know what I needed to do today. I just knew I wanted to go out and play a good round of golf and hopefully that was going to be enough.”
Despite his obvious talents, McIlroy hasn’t been good enough to win on the PGA TOUR since May of last year when he claimed the Wells Fargo Championship. Although he’s won other events, he made 25 starts on TOUR without a TOUR win before Monday.
But he wasn’t getting impatient. His success worldwide left him feeling confident. The worries about his putting, though, did force him to search for solutions.
That’s why he felt more excitement than relief on Monday.
“I knew my game was in good shape,” he said. “I just needed to do something with the putting. I found something. I still need to keep going with it. It’s definitely not the finished article, but it’s a big step in the right direction.”
McIlroy now goes from TPC Boston to Crooked Stick, the same path traveled in 2012 when he won the middle two legs of the FedExCup Playoffs. That year, he was the dominant force in golf, a five-win season that included a major championship.
Less than a year later, he withdrew from The Honda Classic.
He’s learned his lesson. Never give up on any tournament, no matter how shaky the start.
“It’s just incredible, this game, how quickly things can change and how quickly things can turn around,” McIlroy said. “It’s been a great lesson for me this week not to get down on myself, to stay patient. …
“You learn with experience and a little bit more maturity that it’s four-round golf tournaments. It’s a long time. There’s a lot that can happen – and I sort of proved that to myself this week.”
The proof was right in front of him, symbols of a success that didn’t appear likely four days earlier.