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McIlroy holds off Tiger, goes to No. 1

McIlroy holds off Tiger, goes to No. 1

March 5th, 2012 in News

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.