McIlroy holds off Tiger, goes to No. 1
Monday, March 5, 2012
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Rory McIlroy won the Honda Classic with a performance worthy of the new No. 1 player in golf.
Right when it looked as though McIlroy had no serious challenge Sunday, Tiger Woods put some color into that red shirt with a birdie-eagle finish for a 62 — his lowest final round ever — to get within one shot of the lead.
McIlroy could hear the roar from the farthest corner of PGA National, and the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland responded with some clutch golf of his own. He made an 8-foot birdie putt, and then made three clutch par saves during a daunting stretch at PGA National.
He played it safe with a two-shot lead on the par-5 18th and made par to close with a 1-under 69 and the victory he needed to replace Luke Donald atop the world ranking that will be published Monday.
“It was tough today, especially seeing Tiger make a charge,” McIlroy said. “I knew par golf would probably be good enough. To shoot 1 under in these conditions, when you go into the round with the lead, is very nice. And I was just able to get the job done.”
McIlroy is the 16th player to be No. 1 in the world, and the second-youngest behind Woods, who was 21 when he first went to No. 1 after the 1997 U.S. Open.
Donald responded quickly to the victory, tweeting “Congrats (at)McIlroyRory enjoy the view!”
Woods made two eagles in the final round and wound up two shots behind, along with Tom Gillis, who birdied the last hole for a 69.
McIlroy, who finished on 12-under 268, won for the fifth time in his career. Three of those are on the PGA Tour, including his record-setting victory in the U.S. Open last summer at Congressional.
He has finished out of the top five only once since the PGA Championship last August.