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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Morikawa joins Tiger in the record books as McIlroy comes up short again

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Even wearing a Tiger Woods ‘power’ red shirt and black trousers, the Sunday script sadly remains the same as Rory McIlroy heads close to 500-days since his last victory.

McIlroy joined many players in the field wearing Woods’ traditional final round colours as a mark of support as Woods began recovering from last week’s near fatal car crash in suburban L.A. But the closest McIlroy got to the lead was two shots early on in his round before settling for a closing round 71 and a 12-under par tally for a share of sixth place at the Workday WGC at The Concession.

McIlroy was looking to become only a second player, after World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, to capture all four WGC titles but that statistic is now on hold for another 12 months.

McIlroy started his last round four off the lead and after a pair of pars, he holed a 10-footer at the par-3 third hole and moved to within two of overnight leader Morikawa who bogeyed his opening hole.

It would prove the high-water mark of McIlroy’s challenge with bogeys on four and six sending him down the leaderboard to outside the top-10. McIlroy holed a 21-foot birdie gem at the 10th hole then bogeyed 11 before an up-and-down from a bunker at 12 but any slim hope disappeared with his tee shot into water guarding the green at the 15th for a fourth bogey of the day while birdies at 16 and 17 were too little too late.

“I’m still searching a little bit,” said McIlroy. “There were signs that there’s some good stuff in there. I think if anything I felt good with the putter this week, changed from the spider back to the blade which felt good, which was nice.

“I was also a little better off the tee as well. Wedges are good. It’s sort of when I get into 8-iron down to 4-iron is where I’m sort of struggling. I struggled on the par 3’s today, I had some really loose shots and made three bogeys on the par 3’s because of tee shots.

“I’ve still got a little bit of work to do. I guess if I can come to a World Golf Championship with the best players in the world and not feel like I’m my best and still contend, I guess that’s a good sign.”

And what about with so many playing support to Woods in wearing red and black; “I guess for us it’s just a gesture to let him know that we’re thinking about him and we’re rooting for him,” said McIlroy.

“Obviously things are looking a little better today than they were on Tuesday, but he’s still got a ways to go. He’s got a huge recovery ahead of him. But I think just for everyone to show their appreciation for what he means to us out here.

“If there was no Tiger Woods, there would be — I just think the Tour and the game of golf in general would be in a worse place. He’s meant a lot to us, he still does mean a lot to us and I think that was just a little way to show that.”

With his three shot victory Collin Morikawa, aged 24, now joins Woods as the only two players to win a major and a WGC title before turning 25. Last year’s PGA Championship winning Morikawa again showed his class in cruising to victory, thanks to a final round 69 which left him on an 18-under par victory total at Bradenton in Florida.

The win is his fourth PGA Tour title, the most of any Tour player under the age of 25, and it lifts Morikawa to No. 4 in the world. It was also his first win after holding a 54-hole lead.

“Oh, man. It’s so huge. No matter what anyone says, sleeping on a lead has its pressure, has its nerves,” said Morikawa. “I was excited to get back in contention, to have a chance to win. It’s something that I miss. Obviously I haven’t had it for a while, but this is what we love to do, we love to win. “It’s a tough thing out here, but this tournament means so much. With how good the field was, how good my game felt, to close it out like this, with such a stacked leaderboard coming after me, really means a lot.”

Paul McGinley, calling the shots for SKY Sports, summed-up McIlroy’s week remarking:  “Both McIlroy and playing partner Patrick Reed are in Tiger’s colours today but they’ve both been muted.

“Neither of them came close to threatening all day which is surprising.”

Shane Lowry will join McIlroy at this week’s Euro 7.7m Arnold Palmer Invitational in suburban Orlando seeking some respite after posting a closing round 73 following earlier scores of 70, 72 and 76 to be just inside the top-50 at three-over par.

Lowry was among 43 in the 71-player field to finish the event over par. The still reigning Open Champion got off to a horror start on day four to be three-over after just two holes, including finding the water guarding the green at the second in taking a double-bogey ‘6’.

Lowry regrouped with three birdies in his next six holes to then bogey nine and make the turn at one-over ahead of birdies at 11 and 12 with bogeys at 13 and 17.

FINAL LEADERBOARD


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