Rory McIlroy’s wins come at you fast. He has 12 of them on the PGA Tour and many are over by the time the cut is made at the end of Round 2. Others take much longer to percolate.
McIlroy came from seven down at the BMW PGA Championship a few years ago to reset his 2014 season. He went on to win two majors shortly after that. On Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, McIlroy was staring at a six-stroke deficit to Paul Casey.
He caught Casey by the time he hit the back nine of the second FedEx Cup Playoff event on Monday at TPC Boston. McIlroy went out in 31 with five birdies before closing with a 34; he shot 65 and won the tournament at 15 under by two strokes over Casey, who shot a 2-over 73.
It was McIlroy’s first PGA Tour win since the 2015 Wells Fargo Championship. The 65 tied his best final-round score in a win since his first PGA Tour victory at the Quail Hollow Championship in 2010 when he shot a 62 on Sunday.
With the victory, McIlroy also become the third player in the last 30 years with 12 or more PGA Tour wins before his 28th birthday (and he doesn’t turn 28 until next May).
McIlroy actually got off to an egregious start on Friday in the first round by making making a bogey and a triple bogey in his first three holes to fall way off the lead. He fought back that day to get his score to even par, giving himself a chance over the final three rounds to do exactly what he did: win.
“I think those last 15 holes on Friday were definitely a turning point not just in this tournament but maybe in my season, to play the last 15 holes in 4 under par,” McIlroy told Steve Sands of Golf Channel. “It’s amazing to think how I started this tournament and what was going through my mind after three holes and standing here three days with the trophy. It’s pretty cool. I was a little bit like, ‘Here we go again.’ Things can turn around very quickly and they did for me this week.”
They certainly did. McIlroy came into this tournament well outside the top 100 in putting but finished No. 7 on the week. That’s a number he’s going to win tournaments at more often than he’s not. He credited a slight shift in his grip on Saturday morning, but don’t ignore the new putting coach he’s been working with.
With the win, McIlroy joins Tiger Woods as the only two players to win three FedEx Cup Playoff events. A slew of other golfers have two, but only McIlroy and Woods have three. More could be coming too. McIlroy’s putting was on point this week, and last time he won this tournament (2012), he also went on to win the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick (which is where it is next week as well).
This is Rory’s 20th worldwide win.
— Sean Martin (@PGATOURSMartin) September 5, 2016
All of the numbers are staggering, but McIlroy’s play over the final three days was, too. He shot 67-66-65 to close out his first PGA Tour win in 16 months, and he made it look fairly easy.
This is the most tantalizing thing about the generationally-talented McIlroy. If he putts above average, he wins. The runs he was making at holes on Monday were pretty much perfect. Even when he missed, he almost always scared the hole. He finished No. 1 in the field in putts per green hit in regulation.
It doesn’t seem like it should be that easy, but when the greatest driver of the golf ball in history also has the flat stick working, it doesn’t even seem like he’s playing the same sport as everyone else.
Of course, as McIlroy noted, he hit often shots around and on the greens that make you think, “here we go again,” and he’s done that a lot in 2016. The Big Three narrative shifted according to some media folks earlier this year as McIlroy was cast as the outsider looking in; it all happened so quickly nobody was sure what to make of it.
Then there was much chatter on Monday that McIlroy is back. Whatever that means. He was No. 5 on the PGA Tour coming into the FedEx Cup Playoffs in strokes gained overall and will likely be higher than that going into the final two events of 2016. It’s true that he missed the cut at two major championships, but it’s not like he’s been wallowing below the cut line all season. He had six top 10s on the PGA Tour and a win at the Irish Open earlier this calendar year.
On the other hand, it’s easy to see what people are saying. Much has been lavished upon the best talent in the game today, and because of that much is always expected. We don’t crave top 10s or even top fives from Rory McIlroy. The masses demand trophies and record-breaking performances. McIlroy delivered on both fronts Monday in Boston, and now he’ll aim for one other plateau that has eluded him: a Tour Championship, FedEx Cup trophy and $10 million. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Dustin Johnson: Johnson reverted to classic D.J. form with a 75-66 finish. His narrative is basically the same as Rory’s. If he putts well, he wins or finishes top five. He was No. 41 in putting this week and finished T9. A solid showing, but he had a real chance to take hold of the Player of the Year race with a win. Grade: A-
Jason Day: It was a weird, tough week for Day, whose family was involved in a bus accident on Friday. After early struggles, Day fought his way to a 68-67 finish and T15 outing. He will remain in the top five in the FedEx Cup points race which is paramount going to the Tour Championship here in a couple of weeks. As long as you’re in that top five, you can control your own destiny at East Lake. Grade: B
Jordan Spieth: I’m not sure any other top 10 players have been as quiet as Spieth has been the last half of the year. His only blemish this time around was a third round of 72, which dropped him completely out of contention. It would be very Spieth-like for him to win the last two and take home the $10 million (again). Grade: B-
Bubba Watson: Despite this mind-bending eagle putt, Watson missed a cut he really needed to make. He is not guaranteed a spot on the Ryder Cup team, and he did not play well when he really needed it. Grade: F
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Grades: Rory McIlroy takes Deutsche Bank, joins Tiger Woods with three playoff wins