Sunday 25 June 2017

Solid return for Rory McIlroy as Dustin Johnson rises on Mexican wave

'Rory McIlroy had to settle for tied-seventh place on 10 under after a level-par 71, but he never stopped trying in his first tournament since January' Photo: Justin Heiman/Getty Images
'Rory McIlroy had to settle for tied-seventh place on 10 under after a level-par 71, but he never stopped trying in his first tournament since January' Photo: Justin Heiman/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Dustin Johnson justified his status as the world's No 1 golfer by stomping all over a star-studded field to capture the WGC-Mexico Championship Club de Golf Chapultepec.

This was his debut tournament as the top player in the rankings and DJ got the job done, albeit with some difficulty.

The reigning US Open champion had a four-shot lead going into the back nine but ended up winning by just one after shooting 68 for 14 under.

England's Tommy Fleetwood took solo second on 13 under par with a 66.

Rory McIlroy had to settle for tied-seventh place on 10 under after a level-par 71, but he never stopped trying in his first tournament since January.

The final day had a Ryder Cup feel to it and provided plenty of excitement.

Overnight leader Justin Thomas, already a three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, began at 12 under, a shot ahead of fellow American Johnson.

McIlroy was one further behind, but also in the chasing pack was a determined group of Europeans including Thomas Pieters, Jon Rahm, Lee Westwood, Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, plus Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar - all of them within three shots of the lead in the early stages.

Johnson forged ahead to 15 under after nine to lead the way into the home stretch four shots clear of the field.

McIlroy, like Thomas, struggled to find his rhythm and was denied the birdies he needed for a fast start.

Given that he was playing only his third tournament in five months, and had suffered from a stomach bug since the early hours of Thursday morning, Rory's return from a rib injury was impressive.

Rahm (22) a Tour rookie who is built like the proverbial outhouse and with a deft touch around the greens, came into the reckoning.

The Spaniard recently won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, and when Johnson faltered with successive bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes, the door opened for Rahm, who led by one through 15 holes.

Johnson countered with his own birdie at that hole and they were co-leaders, but over the closing holes Rahm bogeyed the 16th and 17th and finished with 68 for 12 under.

Other players joined the conversation. Fleetwood got to 12 under through 15; Ross Fisher was 11 under through 17, and Pieters was 11 under with three to play, so it was a cavalry charge to the finishing line.

Fleetwood ended up being best of the rest with a birdie on the last for 66.

On the European Tour, Paul Dunne secured the third top-10 finish of his European Tour career at the Tshwane Open in Pretoria, with rounds of 73, 68, 65, 66.

Greystones star Dunne ended up tied-sixth and boosted his earnings by €35,772.

The event was won by South Africa's Dean Burmester who finished with a 65 for 18-under par and a two-shot win from the joint second-placed pair, Jorge Campillo of Spain and Mikko Korhonen of Finland.

Burmester had lost his card last year but after this, his first European Tour victory, he has an exemption until the end of 2018, plus a cheque for €190,055.

Dunne tweeted in response to congratulatory messages from family and friends: "After the start really happy with the weeks work thanks for all the messages.

"Congrats @BurmyGolf long time coming. Delighted for you. #gent."

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport