For the second big event in a row, Ryder Cup buddies Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia battled it out on Sunday afternoon and for the second time in a row, McIlroy got the better of his buddy as he posted 15-under-par 265 to win the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational by two shots. The Northern Irishman began the day on Firestone South in Akron, Ohio, three shots behind in second place but after birdies in four of his first five holes, he was leading, never to trail again. After Garcia only made one birdie on Sunday, McIlroy claimed a rather easy two-shot victory to win for the eighth time on TOUR. First round leader and Aussie Marc Leishman rounded out the podium one shot behind Garcia alone in third. This is McIlroy’s first WGC title.
Garcia slept on the lead Saturday night for the 12th time in his career and for the ninth time on TOUR, he didn’t convert. McIlroy was trailing by five shots at one point on Saturday but closed with birdie-birdie after a weather delay to signal his intention for Sunday. If that did influence your opinion he went ahead and birdied four of his first five holes on Sunday to take the lead.
He never looked back.
A bogey on No. 8 offered a faint glimpse of hope but his birdie on No. 11 extinguished any thoughts of him continuing to go backwards. Sunday was his day as errant tee balls that found the trees bounced into the middle of fairways. Iron shots that were misjudged still managed to find the fringe. Putts that were left short were confidently slammed home to save pars. That sounds like what the No. 1 player in the world should do on a Sunday afternoon but a little luck never hurts either. When McIlroy finds this many fairways as far as he hits it, he’s essentially playing another course. The course he’s playing spits out birdies for fun and bogeys every 18 or so holes, on average. Yep, he made four bogeys for the week (T1) and rolled in 21 birds (second). He led the field in driving distance and was T1 in GIR. Throw in a hot putter and nobody is beating him in this form. Poor Sergio had to deal with Tiger and now he’s gets a red-hot McIlroy!
The PGA is next week and McIlroy is looking to improve on the T23 that Justin Rose threw up after his back-to-back wins earlier this summer. While I was cool on Rose busting three in a row, the third one being The Open, I’m trying to figure out how to talk myself out of McIlroy doing this.
I’m not finding my answers, besides history, to dissuade me.
He’s that good.
He’s already won a PGA.
By EIGHT shots.
Only big-time players win these WGC events and McIlroy qualifies.
In 22 WGC events he’s finished in the top 10 in 13 of them.
Now, nine of the 16 winners here have won by two shots or more.
Now, 14 of the last 16 WGC events at Firestone have been won by major champions.
He becomes the first major champion to win a WGC in the last four events.
He is now the 14th player to win a major and a WGC event in his career. His previous best finish was runner up at WGC-Match Play in 2012.
He now becomes the third youngest player, 25, to win a WGC event as he joins Tiger Woods (23) and Patrick Reed (24) as the only players 25 or younger to win.
With this victory, McIlroy collects $1,530,000, 550 FedExCup points and the No. 1 ranking in the OWGR.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 24 of 39 events in 2013-14 but none in the last two weeks. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman and Brian Harman have won for the USA.
Geoff Ogilvy adds his name to Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed six victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the European chalk that has won two of the three majors. McIlroy joins Day and Dustin Johnson as the WGC winners. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America; Tim Clark flies it for South Africa.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 39 events in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 19 of 39 leaders have gone on to win as Sergio Garcia is now 4-12 when holding the 54-hole lead on TOUR. Geoff Ogilvy, winner of the Barracuda Championship, more on that later in the column, converted his three point lead leading into round four.
McIlroy joins Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer as the multiple winners on TOUR this season.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. Ryan Moore (30), Zach Johnson (37), Kevin Stadler (33) and Bubba Watson (35), Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30), Matt Jones (33), all were victorious before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35), Justin Rose (33), Tim Clark (38) and Geoff Ogilvy, 37, have added to the prime-timers trophy case as the season moves along.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), Brian Harman (27) and Rory McIlroy TWICE (25), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) FINALLY has some company in the winner’s circle this year for the old folks as Angel Cabrera won at Greenbrier. Jim Furyk continues his excellent 2014, minus a victory, as he finished second for the third time in seven events.