The BMW PGA Championship is the flagship event of the European Tour and it has been 50 years since an Irishman has hoisted this prestigious trophy. Starting the day seven shots behind the leader Thomas Bjorn, it seemed highly unlikely that Rory McIlroy would be the guy to break that streak. What it took was a frantic afternoon of jockeying bumper cars at the Wentworth Club in Virginia Water, England.
It was all blue skies for Bjorn until this unforced error on the 6thEmbed from Getty Images
Starting the day five shots clear of Luke Donald, Bjorn seemed on cruise control when he made a two-putt birdie on par five fourth to get to 16-under par. But the yarn in his socks began to unravel when he bogied the par 3 fifth and then tried to do too much from the fairway bunker on six, heaving it into the bank the ball settling at his feet. A few more misdirected blows and the Dane made a triple bogey 7 to watch his lead enter the vortex. Another bogey on 9 and two more on 14 and 15 and you can say it was not Bjorn’s day finishing at 12-under.
His playing partner Luke Donald was hovering about but the sixth did him in as well with a matching triple bogey. Luke valiantly threw five birdies down the rest of the way but could not muster anything under par on the two five pars that end this unusual track. He too finished at 12-under par.
Lowry looked strong after his birdie putt went down on the Par 3 10thEmbed from Getty Images
Shane Lowry was the hottest Irishman on the course most of the day and Bjorn’s main concern. An eagle-birdie sequence at four and five got him to 12-under and clearly in Bjorn’s rear view mirror. The ninth was a speed bump for all the leaders and a bogey there seemed to stall Lowry’s advance. He showed perseverance with five birdies on the inward half but two bogies in the stretch were enough to leave him one short at the end of the day.
McIlroy off the course looked like a dead man walking in the wake of his public breakup with Twitter gal and tennis starlet Caroline Wozniacki. Somehow he put all distraction at bay and played some of the most focused golf he has in the last year. A solid 69 on Saturday that included 5 birdies after an opening double bogey got him at least a mention in the pre-game talking head circles.
After a strong mid-iron into the par five 4th he buried the putt for an eagle that seemed to jolt the rest of the field as he got to double digits at 10-under. He watched the leaders behind him veering off the leader board and saw an opening developing for a run to the finish. A short miss at nine and a short-sided leave on the par 3 10th narrowed the opening.
Like a bolt Rory crashed the party with this unlikely short side birdie
What separates superstars from regular stars is the bottled lightening in that back pocket they can call on when you least expect it. From a hairy lie with little room to work with, Rory holed the pitch on 10 to make birdie and pry his way back into contention at 10-under.
It was now a question of putting his foot down to post a score and see if the competition could match him. Birdies on 12 and 13 got him to 12 and a marvelous up and down save on 16 set up an opportunity for an heroic sprint to the finish line.
On the first of the finishing two par fives he needed his short game prowess once again to get a birdie and the lead. His length off the tee on the risk-reward finishing hole left him a conservative approach on the way to a two-putt birdie. Rory set the number to beat in the house at 14-under.
Birdie-Birdie on the final two leads to a vindicating dance
It would have taken a holed approach from the fairway from Shane, Bjorn, or Luke to force a playoff and the golf gods apparently were going to have none of that. As Rory said in the post game, the guys ahead of him made enough mistakes to give him an opening and an opportunity to apply some magic and steal the most prized event on the European Tour for the first time.
Rory has the look of a man who got away cleanEmbed from Getty Images
Against the melancholy hovering above his personal life this win cast a beam of light into his sporting closet just in time for the second Major of the year at Pinehurst in three weeks time.