Rory McIlroy put on a thrilling spectacle of golf to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, birdieing five of his last six holes for his first victory in 18 months.
If there were any concerns about the state of Rory McIlroy's game, those were to put to bed at Bay Hill on Sunday. With five birdies in his last six holes that included a chip-in on 15 and a 25-footer for birdie on 18, the 28-year-old posted a bogey free 64 to set the clubhouse target at 18-under-par - eventually defeating Bryson DeChambeau by three shots.
Arnie's place was a fitting location for McIlroy to get his first win in 539 days, as his last victory came at the Tour Championship in 2016 - the day of Arnold Palmer's passing. And the moment was not lost on Rory.
"It's ironic to think that the last time I won was when Arnie passed away," McIlroy said. "To be able to create my own little piece of history on the 18th green here was pretty special.
"I wish (Palmer) would have been at the top of the hill to shake my hand when I came off the 18th green there. Hopefully he's proud of me with the way I played on the back nine and tried to be as aggressive as I could and tried to take on shots when I needed to, just like he would have."
McIlroy, who started the day two shots back of the leaders, called it a 'perfect round of golf'. With a packed leaderboard, McIlroy made three birdies in a four hole stretch to make the turn in 33, before taking the outright lead with another gain on the 13th.
He followed it with three consecutive birdies in a row which included a chip-in on 15 and monster drive on 16 that left him just 119 yards to the hole. A par on 17 still left him with a one shot lead over DeChambeau, but McIlroy secured victory with a 25-footer on the 18th, lifting his arms in triumph as it found the bottom of the cup.
The Northern Irishman had missed the cut last week, and many had been lamenting his poor performance on the greens. At Bay Hill on Sunday, with a new putter in hand, there was no sign of the yips.
"It was awesome to feel the buzz of being somewhere around the lead going into the back nine and reeling off those four birdies in a row," McIlroy said. "I played a perfect round of golf.
"I've missed it, I really have missed it, and to play the sort of golf that I played today under that pressure, I'm really proud of myself and just so happy to win."
"I kept saying the last few weeks that I wasn't that far away and it just takes something to click into place, and something clicked into place with my long game, obviously something clicked into place with my putting as well, and this is the result."
"It's just so nice to see everything come together finally."
While McIlroy grabbed the late headlines, it was all about Tiger Woods early on as he went on a vintage Sunday tear of his own, making it to 13-under-par with a birdie on the 13th. That all came to a grinding halt afer he lost a ball OB left on the 16th hole, losing momentum with two back-to-back bogeys and dropping in to an eventual tie for 5th place with Ryan Moore at 10-under-par.
And while it felt for a moment it might be Tiger's time, it was still a second top 5 in a row for the 14-time major champion after just 22 rounds of golf since a fourth back surgery.
“If you would of asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments, that’s, I would have taken that in a heart beat. Very. Extremely (pleased.)," Tiger said.
WITB: Rory McIlroy
Driver: M3 460 8.5° Mitsubishi Tensei Orange 70-X
Fairway Woods: M3 15° FW Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 80-X; M3 19° FW Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 80-X
Irons: P750 4 iron Project X 7.0; P730 RORS Proto 5-9 irons Project X 7.0
Wedges: MG wedges 48°, 52° and 58° Project X 6.5; MG wedge Hi-Toe 60° Project X 6.5
Putter: TP Black Copper Soto putter
Ball: TP5X #22 ball