Hoey fends off McIlroy to win Alfred Dunhill|
St. Andrews, Scotland (Sports Network) - It looked early on as if Rory McIlroy
was unstoppable and would head to a record-setting afternoon at St. Andrews'
famed Old Course.
Michael Hoey, who entered the day with the lead, however, had other ideas.
Hoey, who began slowly, finished strong with three birdies in his final four
holes to overtake McIlroy and win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship by two
Play for the four rounds of this event rotated over three courses the first
three days, but came back to the historic Old Course for the final round.
Hoey, who shot a four-under 68 on Sunday to finish at 22-under 266 overall,
captured his third career victory and second of 2011.
"Portugal two years ago was massive, and I've done a lot of work on my
putting," Hoey said in a televised interview. "Madeira built confidence, and
hopefully I'll get my world ranking up with these big events."
McIlroy entered the day five shots behind Hoey, but erased the entire gap by
the end of the front nine by shooting a six-under 30 to begin the day. After a
birdie at the 11th, it looked as if McIlroy would not only cruise to the
finish line, but break his own course record of 63 in the process.
He slowed down considerably over the back nine, however, missing several
birdie chances and parring the final seven holes. When McIlroy's second shot
at the 18th spun back into the Valley of Sin on the edge of the green, he
could settle only for par to finish at 20-under, meaning Hoey could par the
same hole to win.
Hoey was able to do one better than his fellow Northern Irishman McIlroy,
chipping over the same valley with his second and making a six-foot, right-to-
left birdie putt to double the winning margin to two.
"I didn't want to leave myself 30 feet down the hill, and I knew it was pretty
good," Hoey said of the chip shot.
Another Northern Ireland native, Graeme McDowell, shared third with George
Murray at 18-under 270. McDowell missed numerous birdie chances all day and
settled for a three-under 69, while Murray shot a five-under 67 on Sunday.
Hoey opened the day with a three-shot lead, but fell back to the pack quickly.
He played his first seven holes at one-over, and by that point, McIlroy's
hole-out eagle at the third and back-to-back birdies from the sixth helped the
U.S. Open champ move out in front at 18-under.
Murray and McDowell were both in the mix early, but both played the back nine
at even-par and faded while the two contenders duked it out.
McIlroy's drive at the par-four ninth left him 32 yards to the hole, and he
got up-and-down for another birdie to get to 19-under, two better than Hoey,
who had just bogeyed the seventh.
Hoey recovered with two straight birdies at Nos. 8 and 9 to move to 18-under,
but McIlroy hit a perfect approach at 11 and made a short birdie putt to
remain ahead by one at 20-under.
Although Hoey kept it close, McIlroy seemed like an unstoppable force, but the
momentum unexpectedly swung the other way. McIlroy missed makeable birdie
putts at the 10th and 12th, and his iron game was not nearly as solid coming
down the stretch.
Hoey was able to finish strong, hitting some remarkable shots to the greens in
the final holes. At 15, Hoey's approach landed seven feet away, and he made
the subsequent putt to tie McIlroy at 20-under.
At the 16th, Hoey hit the shot of the tournament, sticking the ball two feet
from the pin en route to the go-ahead birdie putt. McIlroy needed to birdie
one of his final two holes, but when his second at the 18th teetered on the
edge of the valley and rolled back into the depression, it was a stark
representation of his bland stretch run.
Even if McIlroy had birdied, as his next putt missed the hole by mere inches,
it would not have mattered; Hoey chipped up and over the valley and made his
last putt to win in style.
"It's a dream come true," Hoey said.
Marc Warren (67), Tommy Fleetwood (68) and former British Open champ Louis
Oosthuizen (69) shared fifth at 17-under, while three-time major winner
Padraig Harrington (69) took eighth at minus-16.
NOTES: Hoey entered the week ranked No. 271 in the world...The Old Course
record used to be 62, but those records were erased when the course was
lengthened in the last decade. McIlroy's 63 during the first round of the 2010
British Open is the current mark, and it was tied by Luke Donald and Simon
Dyson in this tournament...The European Tour moves back to Spain next week for
the Madrid Masters, where Donald is slated to defend his title.
10/02 12:58:24 ET