Despite playing this week with less than his best, Rory McIlroy fought his way to the final and then topped Gary Woodland, 4 and 2, to win the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship. Here’s how the final two matches finished up Sunday in San Francisco:
After taking the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last summer, the world No. 1 is now the ninth man to win multiple World Golf Championships, joining Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Ian Poulter, Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Darren Clarke, Geoff Ogilivy (three), and Tiger Woods (18). He is only the second world No. 1 to win the Match Play, joining Woods, who did it in 2002, 2003 and 2008. The almost-birthday boy, who turns 26 tomorrow, also gets in just under the wire, joining Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win 10 Tour events before the age of 26.
McIlroy, who lost in the final to Mahan in 2012, advanced to the championship match after playing his final three holes in the semifinals 4 under and rolling in a 44-foot eagle putt on the 18th green to put away Jim Furyk.
Woodland, No. 50 in the world, entered the final a combined 11 under on his previous 35 holes at TPC Harding Park, but stumbled out the gates against McIlroy before falling far behind. Woodland and McIlroy halved the first three holes with birdie-bogey-bogey before McIlroy took the fourth hole with a par and extended his lead to 4 up at the turn with the help of three straight birdies.
Woodland cut his deficit in half with wins on Nos. 11 and 12 but let a struggling McIlroy off the hook with back-to-back three-putts on 13 and 14. Rather than finding himself just 1 down through 13, when he missed a 4-footer for par and halved the hole with a bogey, Woodland one hole later fell back to 3 down with four to play.
The match finally reached its end when Woodland conceded on the 16th green.
In his last six majors and World Golf Championships, McIlroy’s record looks like this: 1, 1, 1, 9, 4, 1.
Playing ahead of McIlroy and Woodland, Danny Willett bounced back from his semifinals loss to beat Jim Furyk, 3 and 2, and earn special temporary status on the PGA Tour for the remainder of the season.
Willett, 48th in the world, earns the exemption by virtue of earning an amount of points greater than or equal to the amount won last season by the 150th finisher on the FedExCup points list (Johnson Wagner - 323). The third-place finish is the 27-year-old Englishman’s best result in the United States in 13 career starts and follows up a T-12 at another WGC earlier this year at Doral.
All square through 11 holes, Willett seized control with birdies on 12 and 13 to go 2 up in the match and take a lead he’d never relinquish.
Still 2 down three holes later, Furyk conceded the match on the 16th hole after losing his ball in a tree.
In addition to his newly acquired status, Willett earned an extra $126,000 for winning the consolation match.