McIlroy solidifies status at best player in the world by winning BMW Championship
Johnny Miller called it a "perfect storm," while PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem termed it a "dream leaderboard," but it was real. As morning broke for the final round at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., it was clear that the BMW Championship had become the ultimate star vehicle.
So accomplished were the top 11 players on the leaderboard that they had racked up 181 PGA Tour victories, including 25 majors.
In a conclusion that spanned generations and included seemingly every great player in golf, No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy solidified his status at the top. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland shot a final-round 67 for a two-stroke win over playing partner Lee Westwood (69) and 54-hole co-leader Phil Mickelson (70).
The victory was McIlroy's second in a row, his fourth on Tour in 2012 and the sixth of his career, and it made him the odds-on favorite to claim the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus when the four-tournament playoff series concludes at the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, Sept. 19-23. He won in back-to-back starts for the first time and became the fifth player since 2003 to win four or more tournaments in a season.
(Related Photos: McIlroy's Career in Pictures)
"The thing about the last two weeks, I've just played with complete trust and complete confidence in my ability," McIlroy said.
Tiger Woods, who shot 68 to finish three back in a tie for fourth place with Robert Garrigus, said: "Rory's putting on a show out there."
Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their balls in the fairways for the fourth day in a row due to wet, muddy conditions at Crooked Stick.
McIlroy did not make a bogey until the par-4 18th, where he pulled his approach way left, steering clear of the water to protect his three-shot lead, and failed to get up and down. Crooked Stick architect Pete Dye shook McIlroy's hand behind the green, no doubt wanting to get an up-close view of the game's can't-miss kid.
Woods, who began the day three strokes off the lead held by Mickelson and Vijay Singh, played well but again never heated up on the greens. Despite getting a read from Dustin Johnson, Woods blasted his 20-foot birdie try five feet past the hole on the par-3 sixth, then missed the come-backer, typifying his day. Although he fought back with birdies at 8, 12 and 14, hanging in at three shots off the lead, his eight-foot birdie try at the par-5 15th hole horseshoed around the cup and out.
"I figured it had to be a 63 or 64," Woods said of his target number Sunday. "It's so soft out there, and they gave us some accessible pins."
Mickelson was sticking with McIlroy until the left-hander failed to birdie the par-5 11th hole, then airmailed the par-4 12th hole from the middle of the fairway, leading to a bogey. Although his putting has improved with his new claw grip, he couldn't make enough down the stretch and remains winless since February.
"I'm really pleased with the way my game has come around the last two weeks," said Mickelson, who tied for fourth at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston last week. "It puts me in a position where if I can improve just a little bit more for the Tour Championship and win, I'll be able to win the FedExCup."
Westwood matched McIlroy with a succession of great irons shots and tied his Ryder Cup teammate at 19 under with a birdie on the 13th hole. Only McIlroy, though, could salvage par on 14, and he was back in the lead by himself. His length further separated him from Westwood on the par-5 15th hole, where Westwood went through the green with a 3-wood second shot, and McIlroy watched his second shot come out of the clouds and settle 20 feet left of the hole.
Needing to make a birdie at worst to keep up with his younger, longer foe, Westwood watched forlornly as his chip zoomed past the pin, leading to a deflating par. McIlroy two-putted for birdie and was two up with three holes remaining.
While the big names fought for the BMW trophy, others were trying to play well enough to stay inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings and advance to the Tour Championship. Among the casualties was defending Tour Championship and FedEx Cup winner Bill Haas, who fired a final-round 78 to plummet down the board and finish three under, the result leaving him on the outside looking in at 32nd in the FedEx standings.
"When there's some pressure and there's a pressure situation, I've got to be able to bear down and shoot a good number and not just blow up," Haas said. "I seem to do it often. It's frustrating."
No defending FedEx Cup champion has made it back to the Tour Championship the next year in the six years of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Kyle Stanley made a triple-bogey on the par-3 sixth hole and shot 75, falling to 31st; like Haas, he missed advancing to East Lake by one shot. Third-round co-leader Singh, who is almost eligible for the Champions tour at 49, bogeyed three of his last five holes to finish 33rd.
Ryan Moore, who began the week at 35th in the standings, was fading with three back-nine bogeys on Sunday but made a clutch birdie on the 18th hole to tie for 10th at the BMW and claim 28th in the standings.
Garrigus birdied four straight holes on the back nine (13-16) in his tie for fourth, moving from 31st all the way up to 20th. One rookie made it to East Lake: John Huh (T16 at BMW, up to 26th in the standings).
Despite going six over for his last six holes, John Senden shot 73 and hung onto the 29th spot, and Scott Piercy (68) claimed the 30th and last spot in the Tour Championship field.
At East Lake, McIlroy will try to make it three victories in a row and four in his last five starts -- with an extra $10 million on the line. McIlroy, Woods, Nick Watney, Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker, the top 5 in the FedEx Cup standings, control their destiny -- each would win the $10 million with a victory at East Lake.
"I don't think I'm quite there yet, but I'm getting to that stage where I'm thinking, this is what I should be doing, I should be lifting a trophy at the end of the week," McIlroy said. "The last four weeks, five weeks have been incredible, some of the best golf that I've ever played. I'm going to try and keep the run going for as long as possible."