RORY McILROY may have won his two Major titles at a canter, but he really had to get down and grind out an ugly one-stroke Labour Day victory over Louis Oosthuizen in the Deutsche Bank Championship yesterday.
McIlroy has a Rolls-Royce game, but it spluttered and coughed down the stretch at TPC Boston, forcing the 23-year-old to scramble like the Artful Dodger out of rough, sand and all sorts of trouble for his eighth win as a professional and fifth on the US PGA Tour.
Still, a final round 67 clinched a third victory of 2012 for McIlroy on 20-under and he leads the FedEx Cup points table entering the third end-of-season play-off, the BMW, at Crooked Stick later this week.
Trailing by three overnight, McIlroy fired off three successive birdies through four against one by Oosthuizen. He drew level as his playing partner slipped-up badly at five and then eased ahead when he hit a towering 9-iron to two feet at six.
Two ahead through nine, and three clear when he made his sixth birdie of the day at 12, McIlroy was purring.
As Oosthuizen stalled, Tiger Woods, four-under through nine, looked menacing, but Tiger couldn't buy a birdie putt until the par five 18th.
Then McIlroy made a couple of unforced errors, allowing South Africa's 2010 Open Champion back into the picture.
Yet, after birdies at 13 and 15, Oosthuizen failed to take advantage of a bogey by McIlroy at 17, dropping a shot himself from mid-fairway.
He then missed a 15-foot putt for birdie at 18 to force extra-time after the youngster's 20- foot birdie attempt stopped on the lip.
"That was all about survival," McIlroy sighed afterwards in obvious relief.
"It may not have been pretty, but I'm still delighted to win for the third time this year."
Padraig Harrington also made the 70-man field for the BMW with a resurgent 67.
Escaping the mediocrity of his first 54 holes, Harrington birdied three of the final four to take momentum into Thursday's first round in Indianapolis. He was 59th on two-over.
Irish golf also will be represented this week by Graeme McDowell, even if the Portrush native laboured yesterday, a one-over 72 leaving him tied 74th.
He had enough FedEx points to make the BMW in comfort, but McDowell, like Harrington, must finish in the top 10 on Sunday to play in the 30-man FedEx Cup climax, the Tour Championship in Atlanta.