McIlroy holds off Tiger to become No. 1|
Palm Beach Gardens, FL (Sports Network) - Rory McIlroy became the No. 1 player
in the world Sunday after he withstood a furious charge from Tiger Woods to
win the Honda Classic.
"It was always a dream of mine to become the world No. 1, or the best player
in the world, or whatever you want to call it," said McIlroy. "I didn't know I
would be able to get here this quickly."
McIlroy, 22, shot a one-under 69 and finished the championship at 12-under
268. That was enough for a two-shot victory, and it was a hard-earned one for
the U.S. Open champion from Northern Ireland.
McIlroy had to deal with the pressure of becoming the No. 1 player, compounded
by the spectacular round posted by the longest occupant of that top ranking.
Woods recorded two eagles Sunday, including one at 18, for a final-round,
eight-under 62. Not only was that Woods' lowest final round in his PGA Tour
career, it was also his best round on tour since the third round of the 2009
BMW Championship, which was his last tour victory.
"I thought, starting out the day, that six-under for the day and eight-under
for the tournament was going to be the number to shoot to at least put myself
where I had a chance," said Woods. "It just felt good today."
When Woods' eight-foot eagle putt fell at the 18th Sunday, he got to 10-under
par and was only one behind McIlroy. Mere moments after the Tiger roar,
McIlroy drained a 10-foot birdie putt at the 13th hole to move two clear of
McIlroy had a tough task at hand, not just with Woods immediately behind him,
but with the brutal stretch known as "The Bear Trap" on the horizon.
He missed the green right at 14, but got up and down for four feet for par.
At the par-three 15th, the start of "The Bear Trap," McIlroy's tee ball landed
in the left, greenside bunker. He blasted out to six feet, then converted that
McIlroy made a routine par at 16, but once again found sand off the tee at a
par three, this time at the 17th. He hit another beautiful shot out of the
bunker, but left himself just under four feet to stay two in front.
He sank the par putt and was off to the par-five 18th tee, armed with a two-
McIlroy found the short grass off the tee, and, even with a reachable 243
yards to the hole, he laid up with his second. He did so safely, then played a
smart wedge 38 feet from the hole.
He ran his birdie putt almost five feet by the hole, but could two-putt and
still win. McIlroy left nothing to chance, ran his ball in the back of the cup
and celebrated his first moments as the official No. 1 player in the world
"This one, with what could happen after today, with being able to go to the
top of world rankings, it meant a lot to go out there and produce the golf
that I needed to get the job done," McIlroy said.
Last week, McIlroy had his first chance to ascend to the top of the rankings,
but lost the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship to Hunter
It wasn't match-play on Sunday, but McIlroy prevailed.
"I wasn't paying much attention until he made that eagle on 18," admitted
McIlroy. "It was nice to have that two-shot cushion. I just needed to focus on
my game. If I thought if I go in today and shoot 69, I didn't think someone
from nine shots back would challenge."
For Woods, while that elusive first post-scandal PGA Tour victory eludes him
further, there were a lot of positives to be drawn from Sunday's performance.
"It feels good," Woods said. "I felt like I've been close to shooting this
score, or scores like this. It was just a matter of time before things all
fell into place. I felt very comfortable."
Tom Gillis birdied the last to join Woods in a tie for second. Gillis shot a
one-under 69 and matched Woods at 10-under 270.
Lee Westwood carded a seven-under 63 on Sunday and came in fourth at eight-
Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (69) and Justin Rose (70) shared fifth at
minus-seven, followed by Rickie Fowler (66) and Dicky Pride (70), who tied for
seventh at six-under 274.
NOTES: McIlroy pocketed $1,026,000...He became the 16th different player to
become No. 1 in the world since the advent of the rankings...McIlroy earned
his third PGA Tour victory...Louis Oosthuizen withdrew on Sunday...There was a
two-hour weather delay early Sunday...The PGA Tour continues its Florida swing
in Miami next week for the WGC-Cadillac Championship, as Nick Watney defends
his title at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral against the best players in the
world. The rest of the PGA Tour will be at the Puerto Rico Open, where Michael
Bradley captured the 2011 event.
03/04 18:59:44 ET