King Koepka sends McIlroy Heartbreak Hotel packing

Bernie McGuire
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Rory McIlroy - Image from Getty Images

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka sent Rory McIlroy ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ packing in reinforcing his status as the game’s best with an emphatic three shot success in the WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis.

Koepka quickly brushed McIlroy aside coming from one shot behind in one-putting his first six holes and being unchallenged in posting a closing bogey-free 65 for a 16-under par tally on the TPC Southwind course.

For McIlroy, after lighting-up the course with a 62 on Saturday, it was a virtual Sunday blackout in posting a 71 for a distant share of fourth at 11-under par and five adrift of Koepka.

“I felt close to my best today and having come so close here before in Memphis I am very, very pleased to win,” said Koepka.

“I was a little frustrated with my putting early in the week, so to see some go in today was kind of comforting.

“From the start today, I wanted to birdie number three as I had bogeyed it twice this week, so once I did that I was fine.

“It’s always fun to go up against Rory and to say the least, he’s a true competitor and to win against him today was special.”

American Webb Simpson (64) was runner-up at 13-under with Aussie Marc Leishman (63) at 12-under with McIlroy tied with the England duo of Tommy Fleetwood (66) and Matt Fitzpatrick (69).

It took Koepka just three holes to draw level with McIlroy when the American holed a nine-footer for birdie at the par-5 third hole before muscling his way one clear in brilliantly landing a 185-yard second shot to four-feet for birdie at the fifth.

Koepka then went two shots clear of the Ulsterman in holing a dramatic 20-footer at the par-4 sixth hole.

Koepka made the turn in three-under, two-clear of McIlroy having one-putted his opening six holes and using his putter on just 11 occasion in nine holes.

“Rory’s putter has officially left the building” is how SKY’s Rich Beem described yet another woeful McIlroy Sunday horror show with the short blade.

A day earlier, McIlroy had just 12 outward putts and two-dozen overall in his sizzling 62 but by the turn on day four, he had recorded 16 putts in posting nine agonising straight pars.

And while Koepka strode proudly towards a first career three-win season, picking-up a fourth birdie at 10, McIlroy bogeyed the 12th losing further sight of his playing partner and falling back into a tie for third and four behind Koepka.

McIlroy got back to a share of second when, at last, he picked-up a first birdie of his day holing a near 20-footer at the par-3 14th.

Up to then, McIlroy remarkably was the only player in the elite 63-player field not to have recorded a last day birdie.

He’d grabbed 17 birdies over the first three days in Memphis and just one when it counted most.

McIlroy went into the round having led through 54-holes on 12 prior occasions in a PGA sanctioned event and had gone on to claim victory in seven, but not in Memphis.

The Ulsterman was also looking to win three or more events in a PGA Tour season for a third occasion and savour a third WGC triumph.

It was not to be with Koepka now joining Tiger Woods, Aussie Geoff Ogilvy, Dustin Johnson and McIlroy in winning a Major and a WGC title in the same year.

In denying McIlroy a third win this year, Koepka steam-rolled his rivals for a seventh PGA Tour success.

Both have a week off before heading into the three-event FedEx Cup Play-Off Series starting on August 8th with the Northern Trust at Liberty National in New Jersey.

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