Rory McIlroy insisted losing to his long-time good friend Shane Lowry, who captured a maiden BMW PGA Championship trophy, helped lessen the pain of losing what could have been his second Wentworth victory title.
McIlroy went within millimetres of his eagle putt dropping at the final hole that would have sent the Tour’s flagship event into a play-off.
As it was, McIlroy birdied the hole to finish one shot shy of getting the chance to win on the Burma Road course for a second time, the last being in 2014 when he birdied the closing two holes to deny Lowry.
If anything, it was McIlroy making a mess of the 17th hole for two days running, first on Saturday in finding the trees left and then on Sunday in finding the trees right, that put paid to him winning back-to-back, after his triumph last fortnight in capturing a third FedEx Cup trophy.
McIlroy was walking down the bridge that takes players from the back of the 18th green to the scorer’s hut, and thus avoiding walking through the crowds. There as McIlroy approached the recording area, he spotted Lowry with the pair embracing each other in one of those fantastic moments we see in sport.
“That’s us now one, one”, said McIlroy smiling.
Lowry responded: “I don’t know that putt missed”.
McIlroy then said: “I’m happy for you, you deserve one here”.
Lowry joked: “You’ve won enough anyway!”
Indeed, it’s Lowry’s first win since capturing the 2019 Open Championship and came at a venue, namely Wentworth where had done everything but win. Prior to this week Lowry had finished T4th (2011), 12th (2013), 2nd (2014), 6th (2015), 6th (2017), T15th (2018), T11th (2019), T 13th (2020) and T17th last year.
Somewhat comforting then for McIlroy that it was Lowry who finally succeeded in winning on the leafy Surrey layout.
“I’m so happy for Shane,” said McIlroy. “He’s played a lot of great golf this year. I think back to when he had a chance at the Honda, got screwed with that big downpour on 17 and 18. Hilton Head as well, playing in the final group with Harold Varner. He’s had a lot of chances to win this year and hasn’t quite got over the line.
“I’m really happy for him. He’s played a lot of good golf and he deserves this one. I wish I would have made him play a couple extra holes maybe to get the trophy but incredibly happy for Shane and hopefully we’ll have a couple drinks tonight.
“Looking at his year, I think he was having a sneakily good year and even though the results mightn’t have suggested it, but playing at home with him, seeing him out playing and getting himself into contention, I think it’s as consistent as Shane has played his entire career which obviously bodes well for him for the future for Ryder Cup next year and beyond.”
And speaking of Ryder Cup, Lowry and McIlroy are one and two at the start of the 2023 European Team qualifying process, with Lowry naturally delighted with his winning start to the 12-month selection process.
“This is a great start,” Lowry said. “Obviously I want it to make the team and I want to make it easy for Luke. I feel like I can be a good addition to the team and we can go to Rome and challenge and win that Ryder Cup back.
“I’m very excited that this is the start of the points and that I’ve made some good points this week and I’m hoping in the next few months to make the team automatically and go to Rome in whatever it is, 12 months.
“I do think we have a really good core of good players in Europe right now, and I just think it would be great to see a couple of the younger lads stand up over the next 12 months and make the team and then we go to Rome all guns blazing and win the Cup back.”
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