Sunday had brought rumblings and rumblings. After months of stress fatigue with serial poaching of players through the Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf Invitational Series and with some players shuddering at being asked about that lavish organization—and some of the same players who defected anyway—turned on Sunday. on the old PGA Tour managed to bring up an old topic: golf.
The wave moved as McIlroy gobbled up a six-shot deficit to No. 1 Scottie Scheffler within the first seven holes, then passed Scheffler to win all the trinkets, including the only $18 million bonus that comes from this underserved tour. In some things qualified as quite poignant, McIlroy and Sungjae Im 66s shot to Scheffler’s 73, leaving McIlroy at 21 under par and the other two at 20 under after a week that started with Scheffler six shots ahead of the other two in the multi-week. staggered scoring system.
“Frankly, I didn’t really give myself a chance to tee off in the fourth round,” said McIlroy, touting Masters champion Scheffler as the undeniable player of the year, saying: “I think he might deserve this more than I deserve it.”
This thing had gone to the loudest voice on the PGA Tour throughout the slog, so he said, “It’s going to be hard for me to get to Wentworth [in England] in a few weeks and see 18 [LIV players at the DP World Tour’s flagship event]. That just doesn’t suit me. So yes, I feel strong. I believe that what I’m saying are the right things, and I think if you believe that what you’re saying are the right things, you’ll happily stick your neck out on the leash.
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That said, the weekend could turn into the weekdays and the LIV games — the supposed resumption of who could defect alongside the exhibition-style series, which had already snagged 10 of the current top 50, albeit zero of the top 10. Multiple reports from Saturday had the world’s No. 2 player, British Open champion Cameron Smith of Australia, matched with players in 18th (Joaquin Niemann), 44th (Harold Varner III), 53rd (Cameron Tringale), 63rd (Marc Leishman ) and 93rd (Anirban Lahiri).
Smith, 29, headlined that list, and he played through the 87-degree swelter here, finishing 20th out of 29 entrants. He arrived at the number 18 tee next to Billy Horschel, and they set off with limited attention and response, save for the usual single voice yelling, “Woooo!” Then Horschel spoke of a phenomenon that is rarely mentioned: boys who will be missed. It turns out there might be some.
So Horschel played number 18, trying to fend off a hint of sadness, thinking it might be the last hole he plays—except majors perhaps—besides his friend and co-inhabitant of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “I think there are guys who miss maybe guys,” Horschel said. “You know, I miss Ian Poulter. … He’s a guy I loved being around. He’s a guy I loved playing .”
Still, “If Cam goes, he’ll be the one I’ll miss the most.”
As he spoke after a week of announced PGA Tour changes following a gathering of 23 PGA Tour players in Delaware, the wave roared there. It had started in the morning, closing the weather-delayed third round, with Scheffler birdied four of his remaining six holes to zoom to that six-shot lead. Then there was a break for the fourth round, so Scheffler and McIlroy and Jon Rahm and others had lunch together.
“We were talking about the restaurants in Dubai,” McIlroy said, and soon added, “I don’t know, I mean, anything but the golf and the money.”
The fourth round started two hours after the third round ended and the tilt started moments after the fourth round started. McIlroy made a bogey at number 1, but so did playing partner Scheffler, who made three putts after exiting his first putt at six feet. Soon, “He hit a tee shot on the fourth that just didn’t look like a Scottie Scheffler drive,” McIlroy said.
“For whatever reason, my swing wasn’t where it had been the first few days of the week,” Scheffler would say, his 73 built with four bogeys and just one birdie.
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By the time they got to No. 8, they were tied up, and by the middle of the back nine, I had elbowed myself between them, all within one shot. Then came McIlroy’s birdie coming down the boulevard to the 30-foot cup on the par-3 No. 15, tying him to Scheffler again, and then came No. 16, who would decide things between the two. Both played carnival golf all over the hole to get hard par putts, McIlroy chipping from a crappy spot behind the green and caroming one off the stick, but with McIlroy making his six foot and Scheffler missing his nine.
That became the first time Scheffler was left behind all week, 70 holes in it. Soon everyone fell out, and they hugged at number 18, and McIlroy barely knew what to say because Scheffler has been so great this year for so long — that too, a mix. Soon McIlroy said to the packed crowd, “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 everywhere.”
And soon even Scheffler said, “Playing golf professionally for a living is such a gift. For me, I don’t play golf for money. I play to win tournaments, and I play to have fun and give my best and see where the game can take me. Today the money certainly didn’t cross my mind. I wanted to win the season title. I’ve had a really great year and I wanted to finish it here with a win, but unfortunately I didn’t. At the end of the day it’s such a gift to play golf here for money, and I can’t – I’m just so thankful to be here.’
That ended one day – and one season.