The US Tour Championship ended in unbelievable excitement at East Lake, Atlanta, last night as Rory McIlroy secured victory in an epic play-off to clinch the FedEx Cup title, securing a payday of $11.5 million (€10.2m).
McIlroy snatched the huge payout after a fourth play-off hole when he and Americans Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell tied on 12 under par at the end of normal play.
The Northern Irishman pocketed prize money of $1.5m at East Lake, in addition to a $10m bonus for pipping Dustin Johnson to the FedEx Cup.
Chappell, who was the overnight joint leader with Johnson, looked to be on course to take the tournament title but a bogey on the 17th allowed McIlory and Moore back in.
Chappell then dropped out on the first sudden-death hole before McIlroy held his nerve to beat Moore on the fourth after they could not be separated on the second or third.
A win for either American would have seen compatriot Johnson win the FedEx Cup, but it was the Holywood, Co Down, man celebrating at the end as he took home both titles.
McIlroy’s approach play was of the highest quality all week but failure to take a larger percentage of his opportunities on the greens proved hugely frustrating as chance after chance slipped by the hole. He completed the opening nine holes in a commendable one under par 34 but even that meant the loss of ground to his playing partner Ryan Moore who early on was landing his approach shots closer to the hole and putting with an assurance that saw him reach the turn in 31 that put him into a share of the lead at ten under with Kevin Chappell going through the turn.
In contrast, McIlroy was too often out of position off the tee and as a result was leaving his birdie putts too far from the hole and struggling to pick up the required number of birdies. He got off to the right start with a lovely three at the first where he knocked two perfect shots to 12 feet and rolled in the putt. At the very next, however, he was bunkered and gave the shot back immediately
Rory got up and down from thick rough at the edge of long 6th for a birdie four but after that he had to battle hard to match par and must have been frustrated to watch Moore reel off four birdies with almost consummate ease.
However, that changed for the better when brilliant iron shots set up back to back birdies at the 10th and 11th and even though he missed a treacherously fast eight-footer at the 12th after another superb approach, the 27 year-old Ulsterman was nine under and just two behind Moore and Chappell. A few gilt-edged chances went a-begging as McIlroy continued to pepper the flag and with three to play, Chappell was 12 under and one ahead of Moore and three clear of McIlroy who had three to play.
But then the Ulsterman turned the tournament on its head when he holed his second shot to the 16th to move to eleven under par and within a shot of Chappell and with the $10m jackpot within touching distance. His drive to the 17th caught sand but a marvellous recovery pulled up 15 feet from the hole only for the putt to slide by on the left.
A sliced drive meant he couldn’t reach the par five 18th green in two but he all but holed his recovery, expressing his anguish visibly as the ball trickled inches past the hole.
The birdie for a marvellous round of 64 moved him to twelve under par and level with Moore leaving Chappell requiring a birdie to finish one ahead of the Irishman.
It didn’t materialise thus paving the way for a McIlroy-Moore-Chappell play-off to decide the Tour Championship.
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