Wednesday 13 December 2017

Rory McIlroy romps to Matchplay title on epic day

World No 1 Rory McIlroy snatched a semi-final victory over Jim Furyk in true champion style at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship
World No 1 Rory McIlroy snatched a semi-final victory over Jim Furyk in true champion style at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship

William S Callahan

Marathon man Rory McIlroy had to defeat three opponents on an intriguing closing day of the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship at TPC Harding Park, San Francisco yesterday.

McIlroy, 26 today, received a first prize of $1.57m dollars as a reward for his victory over Gary Woodland by 4&2 in the final - a handsome consolation for missing the Mayweather-Pacquiao blockbuster fight in Last Vegas due to his quarter-final match against Paul Casey going into extra holes.

The plan of fight fan McIlroy was to make a dash by private jet for a 1,140-mile round trip to take his place ringside, but his hopes were dashed when he and Casey were deadlocked in fading light on Saturday evening.

That meant the two European Ryder Cup players would return at 6.45a.m local time to complete their match.

They started - and finished - on the par-five first hole. This was the 22nd of their contest, and a winning birdie four earned McIlroy the right to face veteran Jim Furyk.

The US Ryder Cup stalwart with the unique swing celebrates his 45th birthday on May 12, but is a hardened and wily opponent.

Furyk fronted up to the World No 1 with typical tenacity, and was one up after 16 holes.

The scales were tipping in favour of Furyk before his world came crashing down when McIlroy went into magic mode on the 17th and 18th.

A superb seven-iron tee-shot on the 194-yard par-three 17th, landed the ball inside four feet of the flag and set up a birdie two to go all square.


"I probably hit the best iron shot I hit all week onto 17. The 17th hole has been good to me. It's pulled me through a couple of tough situations," said McIlroy.

On the 18th, Furyk was stunned as the Boy Wonder reduced the 526-yard, par-five to a three shotter, holing from 40 feet for a sublime eagle three and the match.

American Gary Woodland, seeded 52nd, eliminated England's Danny Willett in the other semi-final to earn his place against McIlroy.

Power hitter Woodland (31) and McIlroy were both playing their first final in this event, and the Ulsterman's experience came to the fore early as he raced into a four-up lead. Woodland seemed overly tense, and no doubt both players were feeling the effects of fatigue on the fifth day of a mentally and physically demanding match play challenge.

The American's play became ragged and McIlroy won four holes in a row, taking the fourth with a par, and the next three with consecutive birdies before they halved the eighth and ninth in par.

A half in birdie three on 10 for both players put some pep in Woodland's step, McIlroy bogeyed 11 to go back to three up, and lost 12 to a birdie.

He caught a break when Woodland missed a chance to win the 13th, which they halved in bogey four.

McIlroy made the most of that escape to go three up on the 14th, and held on to claim the prestigious title.

In the consolation match to decide third and fourth place, Willett beat Furyk 3&2.

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