One of the more frustrating summers in Rory McIlroy's career came to the most thrilling conclusion of his career. McIlroy stormed through the TOUR Championship at East Lake this weekend, shooting back-to-back rounds of 66 and 64 to win that instant event and then the whole dang FedExCup playoffs. For one of the biggest earners in the history of the game, it was an $11.5 million payday -- $1.53 million for winning the Tour Championship and that enormous $10 million bonus windfall for winning the playoffs.
McIlroy did it in the most McIlroy way, pumping drives 340 and 350 yards, dropping darts on top of the flagstick, and club twirling into the evening in Atlanta. He started the day with an outside shot to win it all. He was, in fact, not inside that top 5 in the FedExCup standings to start the tournament, so he needed help to win it all. Dustin Johnson, who did lead the FedExCup standings and this event by two shots at the start of Sunday, opened the door for Rory with the worst final round of the 30-man field.
The Northern Irishman would need four extra holes thanks to an incredible performance from Ryan Moore, who should absolutely be the final captain's pick for the USA Ryder Cup team -- we put this new "Billy Horschel hot hand" rule in just for this reason. On the first playoff hole, which also included Kevin Chappell as the third wheel, McIlroy bombed one 357 yards straight down the middle and then fired a laser into center of the green that was accompanied by one of the all-time club twirls.
A brutal lip-out for eagle kept Moore alive, but that's the kind of work that no one else in the game can really match and what has left us breathless watching Rory so many times in the past. Also, that club twirl ... he could have lost the whole thing and that's all we'd remember.
That same kind of power game would eventually yield McIlroy the win on the fourth playoff hole, the par-4 16th. It was at this hole that McIlroy made a desperate late push at Chappell and Moore, holing out from the fairway for a quick eagle and two-shot jump that made a final rally for the $10 million a slight possibility.
Playing this hole again in the playoff, Rory smoked one off the tee some 340 yards uphill, just carrying the corner of a bunker that really should not be in play. A sand wedge to the middle of the green left a little too much meat on the bone, especially after Moore made an outrageous par save from the edge of the green (seriously, put this guy on the Ryder Cup team). That forced Rory to make a lengthy birdie putt to avoid a fifth playoff hole, and he stepped up with the club that has given him so much trouble in the second half of this season. He put it right in the heart to end it there.
Rory was frustrating to watch at times this year, but only because we know how much he's capable of and how much we love, love, love peak Rory. There is no more fun show to watch in the game.
The frustration for him was conspicuous too, with press conferences that got snippy, chucked clubs, and constant exasperated looks after another missed putt or sloppy wedge wasted his incomparable advantage off the tee.
At this point, his career is measured in major championships, and that's where so many of those frustrating moments came, especially after we thought he'd figured it all out at the Irish Open in May. Summa's over, though, and McIlroy finished the year having won two of his last three starts and with yet another walk-in closet full of cash. Unfortunately for us USA fans who are enthralled with him the other 51 weeks of the year, it's now Ryder Cup week.
Here are your final results from Atlanta:
|Place||Player||Score||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Payout|
|T10||Si Woo Kim||-2||67||72||74||65||$218,620.00|