First Posted: 3/5/2012
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Rory McIlroy, the new No. 1 player in golf, is not easily rattled.
He didn’t see a scoreboard in the final round of the Honda Classic until he walked onto the eighth green, looked at the large video screen to his left and saw that Tiger Woods – who started the day nine shots behind – already was tied for fourth, four shots behind.
McIlroy buried a 10-foot putt for his first birdie of the day.
The pressure of trying to win and reach No. 1 in the world didn’t really hit him until he was lining up a putt on the 13th green at PGA National, his concentration shattered by a cheer that could be heard a mile away from the 18th green. It was so loud that McIlroy not only knew what it was for – an eagle on the 18th green – but who it was for.
“I wasn’t really paying much attention until he made that eagle on 18,” McIlroy said. “I heard the huge roar. And it definitely wasn’t a birdie roar. That’s when I knew that he probably got to 10.”
That would be 10-under par for Woods, courtesy of a 62, his lowest score ever in a final round in his 15 years on tour. The birdie-eagle finish, just like the Tiger Woods of old, pulled him within one shot of the lead. McIlroy still faced the scariest stretch of golf at PGA National, with water in play on every shot over the last four holes.
What followed was a clutch performance worthy of the new No. 1.
McIlroy made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 13th to restore a two-shot cushion. Standing some 65 feet away, in grass so deep he could barely see the golf ball, he gouged out a wedge to 4 feet for a par he badly needed to keep momentum. On the two par 3s over the water, Nos. 15 and 17, he splashed out of a bunker toward the water and saved par both times.
McGirt stumbles with 5-over 75
William McGirt struggled in his final round, shooting a no-birdie 5-over-par 75 to drop to 62nd place in the tournament with a 287 total. The finish was good enough for a $12,084 pay check, and pushed his earnings on the year to $140,902.
The Fairmont native is 90th in the FedEx Cup standings with 116 points.