Fairway less traveled
NORTON, Mass. – Rory McIlroy got the start he wanted Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, erasing a three-shot deficit in just five holes.
The finish was hardly a masterpiece, except for the part when golf’s No. 1 player posed with the trophy.
Boy Wonder didn’t make it easy on himself on Labor Day at the TPC Boston. He tore up the turf on a tee shot that traveled 170 yards, and that was the only fairway he hit over the last five holes.
He had to make a 6-foot putt to save par from a bunker, and a 5-foot putt to save bogey after a pitch sailed from one side of the green to the other. And he had to wait as Louis Oosthuizen’s birdie putt to force a playoff slid below the hole.
“I had a couple of wobbles coming in, but I obviously did enough and I’m very excited to get a victory,” McIlroy said.
On a leaderboard packed with some of the biggest names in golf – McIlroy, Oosthuizen, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson – the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland took a giant leap toward establishing himself as the best in the game.
With four birdies in six holes at the start, and limiting the damage from his mistakes at the end, McIlroy closed with a 4-under 67 for a one-shot victory over Oosthuizen, joining Woods as the only three-time winners this year on the PGA Tour.
McIlroy goes to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup. He also has a comfortable gap in the world ranking, and could be tough to catch the rest of the year unless Woods were to win the next two FedEx Cup events.
“He’s not No. 1 in the world for nothing,” Oosthuizen said. “He’s a great young talent, a lot of majors left for him to win. He’s such a cool kid on the course. It’s great playing with him. He makes tough shots look really easy sometimes, especially long irons.”
Phil Mickelson also had a 66 and tied for fourth, along with Dustin Johnson, who had a 70 and likely played his way onto the Ryder Cup team. Brandt Snedeker made a strong case for a captain’s pick with a 65-67 weekend to finish sixth.
Davis Love III will announce his four picks this morning.
McIlroy had a three-shot lead with six holes to play, and only a clutch bogey putt on the 17th hole kept him from losing all of his lead.
Oosthuizen, who had to cope with pain in his right shoulder earlier in the round, came back with two birdies on the back to get within one shot.
McIlroy hit a chip over the 17th green into more rough, and it looked as if he would struggle to make bogey.
Oosthuizen, however, missed the green from 140 yards in the fairway, chipped poorly to 10 feet and missed his par putt, and McIlroy calmly sank his 5-foot bogey putt to stay one shot ahead.
“The 17th hole cost me,” Oosthuizen said.
It was the second time this year that Oosthuizen failed to win after leading going into the final round.
McIlroy made an early charge with three straight birdies, but the turning point came on the fifth hole when Oosthuizen felt pain in his shoulder on a tee shot that sailed into the trees and led to double bogey.
The pain went away on the back, which the South African attributed to an adrenaline rush.
McIlroy and Oosthuizen turned it into a two-man race, with Woods lurking until he couldn’t convert enough putts. In the end, neither could Oosthuizen. He missed from just inside 10 feet for par on the 17th and from 12 feet on the 18th.
“I probably made all my putts yesterday,” Oosthuizen said.