Rory McIlroy casts off shadows to win PGA Championship at Wentworth
‘I guess when I got inside the ropes this week, it was a little bit of a release’
Rory McIlroy throws his ball to the crowd after holing a winning birdie putt on the 18th green on the final day of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Rory McIlroy’s capacity to confound knows no bounds. After arriving to play the BMW PGA Championship only out of a sense of duty to appear in the European Tour’s flagship tournament, having dropped the bombshell news that he had split up with his fiancée Caroline Wozniacki, the 25-year-old from Holywood departed with his star appeal suitably enhanced after dramatically claiming victory.
If his mind was scrambled off the golf course, to the extent that he switched off his mobile phone for days on end and gave his laptop away, McIlroy found peace once tasked with the job of getting the ball into the tin cup in as few shots as possible.
Hours of serenity
“I guess when I got inside the ropes this week, it was a little bit of a release. I was on my own, doing what I do best which is playing golf. And that sort of gave me four or five hours of serenity or sanctuary or whatever you want to call it, just focusing on the job at hand which was to play golf and get the ball in the hole in the lowest number of shots possible,” said McIlroy.
But how do you explain being able to put the personal turmoil of a broken relationship aside? And to get out and win on a course which had never been a friend of his? “I can’t explain it. It’s obviously been a week of very mixed emotions but I’m sitting here looking at this trophy and going, ‘how the hell?, how did it happen?’ But it did.”
In shooting a final round 66 for a winning total of 14-under-par 274, McIlroy edged out his good friend Shane Lowry – colleagues-in-arms stretching back to their amateur days – while Thomas Bjorn, who had carried a five-stroke lead over his nearest pursuer into the final round, and Luke Donald finished in a share for third.
No, this was McIlroy’s story. And if he dominated the headlines before a shot was hit in anger for reasons other than his golf, he used the championship itself to let his clubs do the talking. The victory – his sixth on the European Tour and his 12th worldwide as a professional – earned him a cheque for €791,660 and moved him to second, behind Bjorn, on the European Tour money list.
Not unlike his two Major wins, which came on rain-softened courses in the US Open at Congressional and the US PGA at Kiawah Island, McIlroy felt the rain had been a factor in earning him a first career win as a professional on European soil. “It’s strange to think about all my European Tour wins have come in either the States or Dubai or China or Hong Kong, wherever it is. It’s nice to get one. it’s nice to get one here.
“You could play really sort of aggressive target golf out there, which isn’t usually the style of golf that you need around Wentworth. But with the rain this week, that’s what it turned into,” he admitted.
McIlroy had knocked on the door so often this season without getting a win. He had picked up eight top-10s in 10 strokeplay events prior to this latest success.
“I knew I was playing well coming in here. I alluded to the fact that at Sawgrass, that top 10s are great, but they are not really what I’m looking for . . . I was excited to come here again, and I felt like my game is in good shape and, coming back to Europe, I feel like I can contend. I was looking forward to this week in that regard. It does my confidence a world of good, being able to get the job done under pressure.”
Certainly, his timing of a return to the winner’s circle couldn’t have been better with the US Open coming up at Pinehurst in a fortnight’s time. “I think it’s the start of something. I could feel my game sort of bubbling and it was getting there. A win, as I said earlier, a win validates that.
“I think the game is waiting for one guy or one or two guys or whatever just to kick on. I’d like to be that guy, and I’d like to think that this is a springboard to doing something like that. You know, there’s still three Majors to play this year, a lot of golf left, a lot of big tournaments to try and win. So even though we’re nearly halfway through the season, I feel like mine’s just beginning.”
McIlroy will jump straight back into tournament life in this week’s Memorial tournament. You suspect with a revived spring in his step.