No driver probs for Rory after walk off eagle on 18 pips McCarthy

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy marks his first shot, on the 18th green, at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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When you can’t make a putt, just drive it to four feet on the 18th for the win.

The apparent driving problems of a fortnight ago at Sawgrass have been banished and McIlroy felt it as he bounced up the 375-yard final hole with swagger, beaming from ear to ear as Denny McCarthy, a mere mortal in this scenario, trudged to play his second shot from pretty much where everyone else in the field had been playing from.

Even with a dialled back golf ball, McIlroy would have threatened the front edge of the green.

In the end, it was a thrilling 2UP win for Rory who drove it sensationally against McCarthy, particularly on the back nine.

And to think, the PGA Tour are removing this event from the schedule.

“Yeah, oh my god I found a really good one. Really happy with that,” he chuckled about his drive on 18.

“Yeah, I certainly didn’t expect to fly it on the green. It’s almost one of those, when it’s that far much downwind, it’s almost like I could have hit 3-wood to get the down slope to get the skid.

“Like, I was imagining the driver was going to land into the upslope and sort of stay 10, 20 yards short. But as I said, I didn’t imagine I could fly it on the green.

“I think the drives I hit on 12, even 13, 15, 16, 18, you know, I drove the ball great those last few holes and hit it really well. Yeah, it was great to see. Similar to yesterday too. I felt like I drove the ball really well yesterday.”

Things looked bleak for the Holywood native after finding himself 3 down through six after McCarthy raced to five-under on the card with three birdies and an eagle.

But McIlroy came fighting back with two wins on 7 and 8, drawing an error from McCarthy on the latter.

Match play is as much about the mental game as it is the golf shots and McIlroy got an outrageous break after his wedge shot into 9 hung on the rocks of the hazard. He cutely chipped to gimme range for par to remain one down as McCarthy and his caddie dropped their heads and their shoulders slumped.

Putting remained an issue for the 2015 champion, having won the tenth, he passed up a short eagle chance on 12 after a 420 yard dig and another birdie chance on 13.

This was a classic match that got its moment of class from both players after 15 was halved in gimme birdies. Remarkably, it was the putter that let McCarthy down on 16 and 17 as he went to the 18th tee 1 down when he should have at least been all square, if not one up.

Having passed up his late chances the door was slammed smack bang in his face as McIlroy, clubbing a new shaft in his driver ripped one to four feet on the 18th for a walk off eagle.

“Yeah, it wasn’t easy out there. It’s windy and blustery and tricky. It was good. I’m really proud of myself that I hung in there after being three down early and clawing it back and producing the shots that I did over the last few holes to ultimately get the job done,” explained McIlroy who is purring with his driver.

“I feel like I took the driver out of the box on Friday last week and the first two shots with it I was like, here we go. That’s what it should be. When you’re trying to fit clubs and stuff I don’t think there should be too much fiddling about with it. It was like first two shots out of the box and it was like, yeah, I think I’ve got one here. So it’s nice to sort of see that feeling translate into the same thing on the golf course.”

The four-time major winner needs a half point from his final group game with Keegan Bradley to advance, a defeat would mean an unfortunate elimination and a painful loss of momentum.

McCarthy will be left scratching his head having been eliminated despite being six-under in the match and three-up. Perhaps he will cite a lack of belief having been up by the same margin with five to play against Bradley, only to be forced to share the spoils.

Elsewhere, Shane Lowry’s poor record at this event continues as he lost 4&3 to Mackenzie Hughes meaning he is eliminated at the round robin stage for the fifth successive time.

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