McIlroy sees his Dunhill efforts come up agonisingly shy at Home of Golf

Bernie McGuire
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Rory McIlroy (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

By Bernie McGuire at St Andrews.

Rory McIlroy has again seen a now 15-year effort to capture a maiden Alfred Dunhill Links title come-up short by two shots at the famed Home of Golf in St Andrews.

A few months after the bitter disappointment on the same course of missing out on a second Open Championship title and McIlroy, who was leader in the clubhouse for nearly 90-minutes, signed for a second straight round of 66 to eventually share fourth place at 13-under.

Kiwi Ryan Fox was almost in tears in dedicating his third DP World Tour win and a 14th pro success of his career to the memory of Aussie cricketing great Shane Warne.  Warne who died earlier this year, aged only 52, had been Fox’s amateur partner for many years in the Dunhill event.

“It means so much to me to win at the Home of Golf,” said Fox. “To be honest the only person I can really think of at the moment is Warne. Means a lot to this event and great mates, and just a shame he’s not here. I’m going to enjoy feeling this one with the family.”

England’s Callum Shinkwin (67) and Swede Alex Noren (69) were joint runners-up at 13-under.

McIlroy had spoken on Saturday that he probably needed to post a 64 to have any chance of a first Dunhill win and that proved so correct with his 66 in the end two shots shy of forcing a play-off.

“I stood talking to you yesterday afternoon and I said, 64 might have a chance and it looks like I might come up a couple short,” said McIlroy just after his round. “So that was a decent target.

“I played well again today. I did everything that I wanted to do. I didn’t make birdie on 14 which sort of halted the momentum that I had, and then it was a bit of a struggle on the way in. It was nice to birdie the last.”

McIlroy headed into the final round trailing eight shots adrift of the lead but after holing a 13-inch birdie at the 14th, the sixth of his round, he found himself tied for the lead with the leaders still early into rounds.

He hit a super 318-yard drive over the corner of the Old Course Hotel at the 17th but then found the notorious ‘Road Hole’ bunker in taking a bogey ‘5’.

McIlroy found the front of the 18th green with a 323-yard drive and sent a six-footer to the bottom of the cup for a second straight birdie at famed last.

McIlroy has now contested nine Dunhill Links Championships finishing either second or tied second on three occasions (2009, 2011 and 2014), third on his debut in 2007 and now fourth this year.

As McIlroy awaited the outcome of the tournament he was met by Peter Dawson, Chairman of the Official Golf World Rankings, with the pair chatting for only a brief time and just yards from the front door of the R&A clubhouse where Dawson acted as both Secretary and CEO for 15-years up until his retirement in 2015.

Eagerly also waiting  for McIlroy were half-a-dozen Ukrainian-born children, each proudly wearing woollen beanies sporting their nation’s colours, and clearly thrilled to meet their golfing hero.

McIlroy is now heading home to his Bears Club abode in Florida after three DP Tour events over the past four weeks posting a second (BMW PGA), a fourth (Italian Open) and now a second fourth place.

It’s now six-and-a-half years since McIlroy has won on European soil and that was his victory at the 2016 Irish Open.

McIlroy will have a week off before his October 20th starting defence of the CJ Cup in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

Meanwhile double Dunhill winning Padraig Harrington’s quest to make it an historic triple victory treat really never got out of first gear.

The reigning US Senior Open champ, playing in the same last group as McIlroy, never got going after three-putting the fourth hole ahead of bouncing back in holing a five-footer for birdie at the next.

Harrington birdied nine but stalled over the inward half, losing ground to his rivals, but then finishing on a high in birdieing the 18th for a second day running.

Then as Harrington exited the scorer’s hut he said to McIlroy: “See you at the U.S. Open.”  

Indeed, as Harrington is committed to Champions Tour for the remainder of 2022, and while the Dubliner is not into next year’s Masters, it will be next June’s US Open in Los Angeles the pair will again meet-up in the same event.

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