Sport Golf

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Johnson gets the drop on McIlroy in Mexico

 

Rory McIlroy tees off at the second in the Mexico World Golf Championship yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy tees off at the second in the Mexico World Golf Championship yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Paul McGinley praised Rory McIlroy for his integrity after a critical ruling went against him and Dustin Johnson cruised to his sixth World Golf Championship win in Mexico City last night.

While the Holywood star (29) raced home in 31, even when closing with a bogey for a four-under 67 to Johnson's 66 to finish five behind, back-to-back rulings on the fifth and sixth holes altered the entire dynamic of what was shaping up to be an epic, toe-to-toe battle at Club de Golf Chapultepec.

McIlroy looked set to make a real match of it when he birdied the second and a nervy Johnson bogeyed the third to see his four-shot overnight lead reduced to just two strokes in the $10.25m WGC-Mexico Championship.

But McIlroy missed a six-footer for par after the fourth to go three behind and two holes later, fatally found himself five adrift after his own mistakes, and key decisions by European Tour rules official Mike Stewart, proved enough to derail his title charge.

Johnson (34) drove directly behind a tree right of the fifth and Stewart gave him free relief as his right foot would have been on a cart path for an intended chip out sideways into play.

Whether or not Johnson exaggerated his stance is debateable but the free drop gave the American a shot to the green, and he took advantage, finding the surface from 160 yards before two-putting from 52 feet for par.

Crucially for McIlroy, Stewart ruled he was not entitled to relief in an almost identical situation at the very next hole, where the Irish star tugged his drive behind a tree and claimed he'd have to stand on a cart path to play an intended recovery further left into the woods.

Stance

Stewart felt McIlroy's intended stance was not reasonable as he would hit the tree with his backswing and offered the Co Down man the option of seeking a second opinion, which he declined.

The four-time major winner chipped back to the fairway left-handed instead, and did well to salvage a bogey six to Johnson's birdie four.

McGinley, who will host the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in July where world No 1 Justin Rose is believed to be ready to fill the void left by McIlroy, felt Stewart got both decisions correct and praised McIlroy for taking it on the chin.

"It would have been easy [for Rory] to throw a hissy fit there, and he didn't," McGinley said as Johnson turned for home five clear and eased to his 20th PGA Tour win.

"He didn't ask for a second opinion. He knew in his heart of hearts that it wasn't a drop by a matter of inches, and should be commended for accepting it the way he did."

It was McIlroy's fourth top-five finish in a row and a $1.095m pay cheque, but it was a forgettable week for Shane Lowry who made three birdies, two bogeys, a double and a triple bogey in four-over 75 as he slipped to tied 62nd on nine-over, winning $50,500.

At the Puerto Rico Open, Graeme McDowell eagled the 630-yard 18th to close with a three-under 69 and finish tied 42nd on four-under par.

The Portrush man (39) finished 11 shots behind Martin Trainer, who shot 67 to win his maiden title by three strokes on 15-under from Daniel Berger (66), Roger Sloan (67), Johnson Wagner (69) and Aaron Baddeley (72)

On the Ladies European Tour, Leona Maguire tied for 20th in the Pacific Bay Resort Australian Ladies Classic, 11 strokes behind Marianne Skarpnord, after closing with a three-over 75.

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