Fowler edges out McIlroy in play-off


YOU WIN some, and you lose some.

Rory McIlroy returned to the world number one spot – continuing the yo-yoing with Luke Donald in the bragging rights for that particular honour – but lost out in the quest that really mattered as the 23-year-old Northern Irishman was beaten by American Rickie Fowler, just five months his elder, in a sudden death play-off for the Wells Fargo championship at Quail Hollow on the US Tour.

Fowler scooped his breakthrough win on the US Tour with a sensational approach from 132 yards to five feet on the 18th hole, the first play-off hole, to set up a birdie that enabled him to overcome compatriot DA Points and McIlroy in the three-way play-off after the trio finished locked together on 274, 14-under-par.

In the play-off, all three players hit superb tee-shots to find the fairway: Points, first off, hit a drive of 317 yards that was overtaken by Fowler’s 326 yards and McIlroy’s 338 yards.

And, although all three found the green, Fowler’s approach to just five feet was a sensational shot that produced the only birdie among the threesome.

The win gave Fowler – who made his Ryder Cup debut at Celtic Manor in 2010, despite never winning a tour event – his first US Tour win and a cheque for $1.17 million (€860,000).

“It’s awesome  . . . . it’s a long wait, but well worth it,” observed Fowler of the win, as he edged out McIlroy and Points in sudden death.

Fowler’s only previous win as a pro came in the Korea Open on the Asian Tour last year, when he also held off McIlroy down the stretch.

If there was any consolation for McIlroy ahead of moving on to this week’s Players championship at Sawgrass, it was that he again put himself into contention and produced the fourth top-three finish in just five outings on the PGA Tour so far this season and also reclaimed the number one position in the world rankings from Donald.

McIlroy, Points and Fowler finished level after the regulation 72-holes: the Ulsterman shot a closing 70 for 274 to join Fowler, who also missed a birdie putt on the final hole, on that mark, while Points suffered his first bogey in 38 holes on the finishing hole after pushing his approach into a greenside bunker and failing to get up-and-down to save par on his way to a closing 71.

Early on in the final round, McIlroy’s putter proved to be temperamental.

He missed from four feet on the third for bogey and then three-putted the fourth for another dropped shot.

In all, McIlroy had six birdies and four bogeys in his finishing round, the last bogey coming on the Par 3 17th where his seven-iron tee-shot missed the green right and he chipped to six feet only to hit a timid putt.

In fairness, all three of those who made the play-off had a chance to win in regulation.

Points, a 36-year-old American whose only tour win had come in last season’s Pebble Beach pro-am, had the edge playing the 18th only to push his drive into the first cut and then to err on the side of caution with his approach – avoiding the creek down the left – which found a greenside bunker from which he failed to save par.

Lee Westwood, the world number three, finished strongly with a closing 66 for 277 that left him in tied-fifth to put him in good mood on his way to this week’s Players championship.

“I’m playing solidly, aren’t I? Won last week [in Indonesia] and [came] third in the Masters before that.

“I played well aside from some putts and next week is a golf course I love playing. It suits my game. I’ve been in with a chance two or three times around there, so I’m looking forward [to it],” he added.