Rory McIlroy completed his meteoric rise from golf’s boy wonder to world number one today – and stopped Tiger Woods from possibly pulling off one of his most remarkable wins.
Needing to win the Honda Classic in Florida to end Luke Donald’s nine-month reign, the 22-year-old Irishman had to contend with Woods, joint 18th teeing off, charging from nine behind to only one back.
An eight under-par 62, one outside the course record, was the lowest final round of the American’s career and it came to a crescendo when he followed a 24-foot putt for birdie on the short 17th with an eight-footer for his second eagle at the last.
That was just like the good old days for Woods – and it came moments after Lee Westwood had equalled his lowest score in the States with a 63.
All eyes then turned back to McIlroy and he was up to the task as he became the second youngest number one – after Woods – since the rankings began in 1986.
The US Open champion had just had his first bogey of the day on the 12th to be 11 under-par to Woods’s 10 under, but he came straight back with an eight-foot birdie on the next.
McIlroy then saved par from deep rough beside the 14th green, but still to come was the three-hole stretch known as the “Bear Trap”.
Ahead of him Justin Rose went into the water on the short 15th and fell out of contention, but McIlroy got up and down from the back bunker there and then did it again at the 190-yard 17th.
That took him to the tee on the 556-yard last still two in front and he made the safest of pars for a closing 69 that gave him the title by two from Woods and 43-year-old American Tom Gillis, with Westwood two strokes further in back after starting the day 27th.
It was McIlroy’s third PGA Tour victory.
He won at Quail Hollow in 2010 with a closing course record 62 and then last June, of course, was the youngest winner of the US Open since 1923 – by eight shots and with a record score by four.