McIlroy began his day at 4:30am and by the end of it he had defeated three players and won the 2015 WGC Cadillac Match Play Championship.
In match play golf, it’s difficult to expect the expected. The fickle, unfair nature of the game often means the golfer considered to be the better play can lose.
Which is what makes Rory McIlroy’s victory at the WGC Cadillac Match Play so unexpected. He is the world’s best golfer and the favourite to win this week, but few of us really thought it would happen given the format for the event can cause so many unexpected results.
Just look at what happened to Jordan Spieth. The world number two won his opening two matches and looked set to take a one hole lead at the 15th against Lee Westwood. Westwood chipped-in for par, Spieth missed his birdie putt and eventually the match as Westwood closed the match out with two birdies.
What made McIlroy’s victory is even more amazing when you consider the path he took to get there.
After resigning himself to watching the “Fight of the Century” from the clubhouse at TPC Harding Park (despite having tickets to the event), the Northern Irishman woke at 4:30am and resumed his quarter-final battle with Paul Casey at 6:45am.
A birdie at the 22nd hole got him a spot in the semi-final against Jim Furyk which was one of the best matches of the tournament.
Down on two occasions, including finding himself one hole down at 16th, McIlroy rallied with two birdies and an eagle at the last to produce a remarkable a victory and a berth in the final against Gary Woodland.
Here’s McIlroy’s remarkable eagle putt on the 18th in his semi-final against Jim Furyk. Johnny Miller sounds thrilled.
Both players appeared tired, or perhaps a little nervous at the beginning of their match. Woodland and McIlroy made matching birdies at the opening hole, but they matched bogeys over the next two holes. One wondered whether either player had the energy to muster up any pars, let alone birdies.
When Woodland made his third consecutive bogey on the fourth to hand McIlroy the match, the world number one took it as a sign to get rolling and made three consecutive birdies to a four hole margin through 7 holes.
Woodland managed to get the margin back to a two hole deficit at the 12th hole and came close to narrowing it further at the 13th. But his putt just missed an McIlroy finished the match off soon after, winning 4&2.
It was Rory McIlroy’s 10th PGA Tour victory and his first in the US this year. USA Today’s sports writer Steve De Meglio probably summed it up best.
At TPC Harding Park, .@McIlroyRory played 121 holes, beat 3 players on Sunday, 7 in all, and rallied for 4 wins. Yep, world No. 1 earned it
— Steve DiMeglio (@Steve_DiMeglio) May 3, 2015