World no.1 Rory McIlroy, 26 today, celebrated his birthday a day early by winning the WGC-Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, yesterday.
The Northern Ireland superstar claimed his second WGC title following a crushing 4&2 victory over big-hitting but errant American Gary Woodland who conceded the spoils – and the crown – at the 16th hole of a one-sided final.
“I’m really proud of myself with how I showed a lot of character early on with coming back from deficits in the previous rounds,” McIlroy said. “I played really solid golf. My second WGC and first win in the States this year. I couldn’t be happier.”
It was the first time since Tiger Woods in 2008 that the No. 1 seed won golf’s most unpredictable tournament.
McIlroy was 2 down with two holes to play and risked being eliminated Friday when he rallied against Billy Horschel to win in 20 holes. In a quarter-final match that spilled into Sunday morning, he was 1 down to Paul Casey on the 17th hole and wound up beating him in 22 holes.
His strongest play was in the semi-finals against Jim Furyk, who put enormous pressure on McIlroy over the closing holes, only for McIlroy to sink a sensational 45ft eagle putt on the last green to go through.
In the consolation match, England’s impressive Danny Willett defeated Furyk on the 16th hole and picked up $646,000, which will go a long way toward PGA TOUR membership if he wants it.
McIlroy won for the second time this year and the 16th time worldwide. It was his 10th US Tour victory, joining Woods (24) and Jack Nicklaus (12) as the only players with at least 10 victories at age 25 or younger.