One couldn’t discuss the future of the PGA Tour this season without Rory McIlroy’s name on their lips. On Sunday at the 2022 Tour Championship, McIlroy recalled that he is just as integral in the present. Despite trailing by a whopping 10 shots at East Lake Golf Club in the final event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, McIlroy (-21) rallyed on Sunday to usurp world number 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler, and became the first three-time winner in FedEx Cup history, collecting the $18 million first prize associated with the trophy.
Unlike some tournaments where he digs himself into a hole from which to fight – which he certainly did by kicking off this event with a triple bogey Thursday – McIlroy was in the conversation at East Lake from the start by posting 67s in consecutive rounds. to open the game. However, it was the third round back nine that he closed early on Sunday that made him a real contender as Rory birdied three of his last six holes to card a 63 and claimed his spot alongside Scheffler in the final. clutch as he put pressure on the 54-hole leader despite being behind a six-stroke.
“I’ve been in the latter group for three of the last five years here,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t give myself much of a chance to tee off today. Six behind, I thought it was going to be very difficult to make up for it. But [between] my good game and Scottie’s not-so-great game, it was a ball game going into the back nine.”
McIlroy’s fourth round started with a bogey, but he tied with Scheffler after the Texan scored three bogeys in the first six holes. With McIlroy putting five birdies on his first 12 holes, the race had officially started when the two rounded the bend. Another bogey on the 14th pushed McIlroy back behind Scheffler, but Rory responded immediately with an astonishing 31-foot birdie putt on the 15th that sent the crowd into a frenzy and put him at the top of the standings again in a tie.
It was the par-4 16th where McIlroy was nearly undone. Sitting in a fairway bunker after his second shot, his third flew nearly 100 feet over the green. However, Rory’s subsequent chip dented the flagpole, Scheffler missed a 9-foot par putt and McIlroy saved par to take the solo lead and become the first golfer to wrestle first place from Scheffler this week.
McIlroy led with a strike on the 18th and watched Scheffler find a bunker to follow by bouncing his own approach from the stands into the rough. When Scheffler airmailed the green with his third shot from the bunker, McIlroy had the opportunity to play conservatively to the center of the green and two putts for the FedEx Cup crown.
“I feel like Scottie deserves at least half today,” McIlroy said for the first time after being introduced as champion. “He’s had an incredible season. I feel a little bad… but he’s a great competitor. He’s an even better guy. It was an honor and a privilege to compete against him today.”
Scheffler, a four-time winner of the PGA Tour this season and the best golfer in the world for nearly all of the year, finished second to Sungjae Im; each took home $5.75 million, splitting second and third place prizes.
McIlroy later called the “battle of Georgia” between the two titans of the game when Scheffler defeated McIlroy at the 2022 Masters at Augusta National in April. As bounces went the way of the 26-year-old at the first major championship of the year (and for much of the year), the golf gods wanted the Northern Ireland man to win on Sunday, making up for a season which was marked by four top-10 finishes in the major championships, including a heartthrob (at The Open Championship at St Andrews) and sourness in McIlroy’s mouth.
“It means an awful lot” [to win the Tour Championship]’ said McIlroy. ‘I believe in the game of golf. I especially believe in this tour. I believe in the players on this tour. It’s the best place in the world to play golf, except, and I’ve played all over the world.
“This is an incredibly proud moment for me, but it should also be an incredibly proud moment for the PGA Tour. They’ve had a hard time this year, but we’re getting through it. That was a spectacle today — two of the best players around the world competing for the biggest prize on the PGA Tour – and I hope everyone at home enjoyed it.”
When he became the figurehead of the PGA Tour, leading the charge against the fledgling LIV Golf Series and still being able to perform at the highest level on the biggest podium, the taste of victory was all the sweeter for McIlroy in Atlanta. .
In a week that started with McIlroy and Tiger Woods spearheading the golf course’s efforts to secure the game’s future, it was McIlroy’s performance on the ropes that proved once again that what the PGA Tour has cannot be replicated.
Here’s the breakdown of the rest of the standings during the 2022 Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
T2. Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im (-20): The stars were aligned so Scheffler could claim history at East Lake. Scheffler started the week with a two-stroke lead, built it up to seven and started the final round with a six-stroke lead, but Scheffler just let the FedEx Cup slip through his fingers. After playing his last six holes in 4 under on Sunday morning to close out his third round, it felt inevitable that this week would continue in much the same way as his spring as he took his four wins.
With a win, Scheffler would have had the richest season in PGA Tour history and just the fifth season of five wins in the past decade, starring Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. He is also said to have left a mark on what has been a breakthrough campaign. While the $12.25 million difference between first prize and Scheffler’s T2 sum may sting, Scheffler will take solace in an astonishingly good season. He’s likely to be named your PGA Tour Player of the Year and remains the world’s No. 1, but unfortunately sometimes even the best fall short when the lights are brightest.
Im, Atlanta’s adopted son, went about his business casually and went out of his way to recover from a major blunder on his back. He had run within one stroke of the lead several times, but it was a double bogey on the 14th par-4 that finally took his name out of the FedEx Cup battle. With just one win to his name on the season, Im’s consistency finally paid off in the form of a split check for second place. He went into the postseason with back-to-back runner-up finishes and drove this momentum to three straight top-15 finishes. It’s easy to forget I’m only 24 and who says a Scheffler-type season isn’t in the offing for him as he now hopes to lead the international team to a massive defeat in the Presidents Cup in September.
4. Xander Schauffele (-18): The East Lake savant was one of three players to grab the lead in the Tour Championship, but Schauffele immediately came back when he did. Without the delay of the rain on Saturday we might be talking about a different story, but in the end, the weekend was his ultimate downfall. Schauffele was one of only four players not to break par in the third round and was unable to keep up with his playing competitor Scheffler and eventually the rest of the field.
T5. Max Homa, Justin Thomas (-17): Homa, the man who won the first tournament of the 2021-2022 campaign, finished his season in an impressive way. Playing his last 56 holes in 18 under allowed Homa to climb from the depths of the standings to a seven figure salary. The confident King should only continue this trajectory into next year as he added two wins, a top-five finish at the Tour Championship and (more than likely) an appearance for the United States in the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow – – the site of his first PGA Tour win – to his player resume.
T7. Patrick Cantlay, Sepp Straka (-16): This week was all about back-to-back FedEx Cup titles for Cantlay, as the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year was just an adequate performance to claim the top prize of the year. The Californian started the week in second position at 8 under and was a mainstay on the first page of the standings despite some problems on the greens. Cantlay was one of the leaders in both batting stats, but was unusually outside the top 25 in strokes achieved by knocking out just 29 players. It was statistically better than last season, but despite that performance, the 30-year-old hardware from the Zurich Classic and BMW Championship feels a bit tainted.