Thursday 24 October 2019

Chipping woes bring McIlroy birthday blues

Rory McIlroy plays a shot on the fifth hole during yesterday’s round of the Wells Fargo Championship. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy plays a shot on the fifth hole during yesterday’s round of the Wells Fargo Championship. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

James Corrigan and Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy's hopes of celebrating his 30th birthday weekend in style came crashing down at the Wells Fargo Championship as a chipping nightmare derailed his final-round challenge.

McIlroy began the day two off Max Homa's lead and looking for his third title at Quail Hollow. But after eight straight pars - including a three-putt par on the par five seventh - the errors started to rack up.

He three-putted the ninth to fall back to eight-under and then suffered the awful double-bogey seven on the 10th. McIlroy was less than 50 feet away from the pin in two, but, remarkably, took five to get down.

He fluffed two chips into the bank and watched in horror as they both rolled back to his feet. McIlroy finally managed to get it to within six feet on his third attempt, but to compound the misery he missed the putt.

There was a birdie two on the 13th, when McIlroy conjured his tee-shot to three feet, but on the 14th he pulled his drive into the water. When the horn sounded for a weather delay, McIlroy had spiralled into a tie for 12th.

McIlroy eventually signed for a dispiriting final round of 73 which left him in tied eighth, eight shots behind Homa who was a picture of poise throughout to seal his first Tour victory.

A double-bogey at the last cost Seamus Power several thousand dollars, a top-10 spot and the chance to finish ahead of McIlroy. Power enjoyed four birdies in five holes after the turn but dropped two shots on the last to finish in a tie for 13th.

Elsewhere, Finland's Mikko Korhonen became a two-time European Tour winner when he beat Frenchman Benjamin Hebert with a birdie in sudden-death to win the Volvo China Open.

Sixteen years after he was making up the numbers in the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin, finishing 17 shots behind winner Noel Fox, last year's Shotclock Masters winner came out on top after a thrilling final day tussle at Genzon Golf Club.

He won €443,817 and moved from 98th to 17th in the Race to Dubai rankings, earning him a place in the US PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park next week.

On the Challenge Tour, Antoine Rozner produced a five-under-par homeward nine to clinch the Challenge de España by four shots. The Frenchman (26) began the day three strokes behind overnight leader Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez but surged ahead after gaining five shots in four holes, signing for a bogey-free, six-under 66 to secure his maiden Challenge Tour win

Michael Hoey made five birdies in a closing 70 to finish ten strokes behind Rozner in tied 27th, earning €1,620. Ruaidhri McGee finished 65th on nine-over after a 74 to take home €520.

In amateur golf, Holywood's Tom McKibbin (16) continued his hot streak of form when he finished an impressive tied sixth behind Wallasey's Joshua McMahon in the Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

After back-to-back wins in the McEvoy Trophy and the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, he closed with rounds of 71 and 72 to finish on 11-over 291, just three shots behind the winner. McMahon holed a 40 footer at the 18th for a 71 to win by a shot from Harry Goddard, Austria's Gerold Folk and Mere's Jack Brooks on eight-over 288.

Mallow's James Sugrue tied for 14th on 15-over 295 after a final round 79. Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon was 19th on 297 as Naas's Robert Brazill and Galway's Ronan Mullarney tied for 24th on 299.

In the Munster Strokeplay Championship in Cork, Galway's Joe Lyons (46) beat Waterford's Eanna Griffin with a par-four at the second extra hole of a sudden-death playoff.

Seven strokes behind Lyons on two-over after a third-round 71, Griffin closed with a 70 to Lyons' 77 to leave them a shot clear of Carton House's Keith Egan on level par 288.

They shared the par-four first in par and moved to the 17th where Griffin chipped to seven feet but missed for par and Offaly native Lyons, winner of the West of Ireland title in 2007, two-putted from 25 feet for victory.

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