Monday 23 May 2016

Rory Mcilroy Wins Irish Open To Claim First Title Of 2016

Rory McIlroy conjured up two magical strikes of the highest quality as he held off a valiant challenge from Russell Knox to claim the Irish Open title at the K Club. McIlroy delighted his legion of adoring home fans with a remarkable sequence of shots over the final three holes to turn a one-stroke deficit into a three-shot victory, closing out his first win of the year with an eagle at the 72nd hole.

Danny Willett began the final round as the biggest threat to the tournament host, but the Masters champion missed a series of birdie chances and dropped five shots in four holes down the stretch to plummet out of contention. Knox birdied 14 and 15 to jump into a one-shot lead, but the tournament turned on its head at the par-five 16th as McIlroy laced a three-wood to the heart of the green and two-putted for birdie, while Knox again needed three putts to get down and walked off with a bogey six.

The deflated Scot parred the last two to settle for a share of second on nine under with Bradley Dredge, who birdied 17 and 18 to cap a superb six-under 66, while Matthew Southgate staged a strong finish to clinch outright fourth after a 68. After completing the final three holes of his third round with three pars to return a 70, McIlroy was three clear of the field and a birdie at the fourth maintained his advantage as Knox suddenly became his closest rival when he rolled in a 20-foot putt for an eagle. Knox reduced the deficit with a birdie at the next, only to give it back with a three-putt bogey at the sixth, where McIlroy's approach came close to spinning back into the water and he missed from six feet to save par. McIlroy's lead was back down to two when Knox birdied the eighth, and play was again suspended for over an hour due to further adverse weather conditions, and the break galvanised the world No 3 as he returned to roll in a 20-footer for birdie at the 10th.

But McIlroy then missed a short par putt on the 11th green, and he traded pars with Knox over the next two holes as Willett's run of 23 consecutive pars came to an end when he bogeyed the 14th. Knox's birdies at 14 and 15, where McIlroy pulled his drive into the trees during a hailstorm and did well to salvage a par, put the Scottish ace one shot ahead before the home favourite produced his best when he needed it. McIlroy's superior length was a huge advantage as he got home in two, while Knox tugged his third left of the green and Willett's bad day was compounded when his careless lay-up found the River Liffey and led to a double-bogey seven. After the two-shot swing at 16, McIlroy knocked his approach to eight feet at the next only for his birdie putt to lip out while Knox left his birdie putt short to ensure the four-time major champion would retain the lead coming down the last.

McIlroy was not happy with his drive despite finding the left side of the fairway, but he put the destiny of the title beyond any doubt as he made perfect contact with a five-wood from just over 250 yards, and his ball pitched safely on the putting surface and rolled to within two feet of the cup. Danny Willett did not make a birdie over the final 32 holes of the tournament, and his race was run when he found water at 16. The 27-year-old tapped in to complete a 69 for a winning score of 12 under par, lifting his first victory since the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last November.


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