Uh oh, U.S. Ryder Cup enthusiasts. Remember last week, when Rory McIlroy couldn’t hit the broad side of a 15-inch cup with a flat stick in his hand, and you were all geeked up about your team’s chances at Hazeltine?
Well, those halcyon days are over and so, apparently, are McIlroy’s putting woes. The now two-time Deutsche Bank Championship winner put Friday’s first-round triple bogey and even-par 71 in the rear view with three subsequent rounds in the 60s (67-66-65) and a two-shot, come-from-behind victory over Paul Casey at TPC Boston.
"I think those last 15 holes on Friday were definitely a turning point, not just in this tournament, but maybe in my season, to play the last 15 holes in 4-under par to get it back to even par for the day," McIlroy said after his Labor Day labors.
"It is amazing to think how I started this tournament and what was going through my mind after three holes, and then all of a sudden standing here four days later with a trophy," he said about the bogey and triple that featured in his opening three holes. "It is pretty cool."
Looks like new putting coach Phil Kenyon was the answer McIlroy was seeking as he fiddled with how he clamped his hands on different putters while missing the cut at last month’s PGA Championship and going winless on the PGA Tour since the 2015 Wells Fargo Championship. Fine-tuning with the newest member of Team Rory since Baltusrol and his usual exceptional ball-striking were the keys to McIlroy overcoming a six-shot deficit at the start of Monday’s finale to earn his 12th tour win.
"I tweaked my putting grip on Saturday morning and holed some putts on Saturday and went with it and got some momentum," he said. "Here we are, 69 holes later and 19-under par later and I end up with the trophy."
McIlroy posted a 15-under 269 for the second of four playoff events and surged into contention for the FedEx Cup. Starting the week at 38th in the FEC standings and ranked 130th on tour in putting, the 27-year-old Ulsterman was seventh on the greens for the week and roared up to fourth going into the BMW Championship.
He also became just the second player — after Tiger Woods, of course — to win three playoff tourneys.
With the BMW, Tour Championship, and Ryder Cup looming, the third player in the last 30 years to prevail in at least 12 tour contests is brimming with confidence.
"I came off the back of a rough couple of weeks," McIlroy said. "Excited with how my game is and what I've found this week, and hopefully I can keep it going for the next couple of tournaments, but ultimately into the Ryder Cup and trying to get a fourth one of those."
And that, sports fans, has to help Darren Clarke sleep soundly at night and cause nightmares for Davis Love III.