Rory McIlroy’s start wasn’t ideal.
His initial drive at the Tour Championship went over of bounds, resulting in a triple bogey. A second-hole bogey put McIlroy 10 strokes behind FedEx Cup leader Scottie Scheffler.
McIlroy is a glass-half-full kind of person, so he didn’t let the stumble affect his Playoff finale at East Lake Golf Club. McIlroy produced a back-nine 31 and a 67 to stay in contention on Thursday, and by Sunday he was in the last group with Scheffler, albeit six strokes behind.
The struggle between the world’s top golfer and McIlroy for the PGA Tour’s richest prize didn’t disappoint, though. It was a “spectacle,” according to McIlroy.
As McIlroy pressed Sunday, Scheffler, a four-time winner, faltered. McIlroy tied for the lead with a 31-footer at the 15th hole and grabbed sole possession when the Texan couldn’t get up-and-down. McIlroy became the first three-time FedEx Cup winner with two scrambling pars. He ended at 21-under with a 66, while Scheffler shot 73 and tied for second with Sungjae Im.
McIlroy won with grace. He hugged Scheffler’s parents and wife, assuring them their guy deserved the championship. Then he told NBC’s Mike Tirico as much.
“What a week,” McIlroy exclaimed as he clutched the Tiffany trophy. “Scottie deserves half of this today. His season was amazing. I’m sorry I beat him, but he’s a fierce competition. He’s great. I’m confident we’ll have many more battles together. “He got The Masters; I got Georgia,” I informed him.
McIlroy noted the contrast between his start and finish. Tom Kim opened the Wyndham Championship with a quadruple bogey and fell 13 strokes behind the pace before winning.
McIlroy: “It shows you anything’s possible, even when you’re behind or ahead in the tournament.” “Everything’s possible. That’s what I’ll remember about this week. When I heard that, I immediately thought of Tom Kim at Greensboro.
“I may have thought, I have no chance; what am I doing? I was in a good mentality for the week, so I didn’t let it get to me and just went to work.
McIlroy’s three wins in 2021-22 brought his career total to 22. The consistency of four top 10 finishes, including second at The Masters and third at The Open, is encouraging.
McIlroy compared this season to 2019, when he won The Players Championship and RBC Canadian Open before beating Brooks Koepka at East Lake. Tiger Woods, McIlroy’s pal, hasn’t won three FedEx Cups.
“I golfed well.” Harry [Diamond, his caddie] told me on the 18th green today that I needed a major. McIlroy: “He said that the good golf I played this year deserved it.
“It’s cool to do something new in golf. The FedEx Cup isn’t as old as some other tournaments, but to be a three-time champion is tremendously fulfilling.
“Men’s professional golf has been chaotic,” he remarked. “I’ve been busy. I try to defend what I think is the ideal place to play elite professional golf any time I get.
“It’s fitting that I was able to finish this today after a tough and different year.”
McIlroy will be the first to declare it’s the competition, not the money, that drives him. None.
“Winning the FedEx Cup has its perks,” McIlroy added. “I have three sterling silver Calamity Jane reproductions. East Lake and Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur player, represent golf’s heritage and traditions. He showed that.
“It’s money. We’re professional golfers; it’s amazing. It’s true. At this point in my career, victory, the adventure, and the emotions mean more than the check.”