To crown a remarkable weekend for Irish sport, Rory McIlroy captured the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday at the Bay Hill course in Florida. Shooting a stunning final round of 64, it was McIlroy’s first tournament win in 26 attempts, a stretch dating back to September 2016.
Speaking after his win, an obviously delighted McIlroy felt this day was coming: “I kept telling everyone I was close. Nobody would believe me but I knew it.
“It was awesome to feel the buzz of being around the lead on the back nine. I have missed it, I really have”.
Starting the day two shots off the lead, McIlroy began his charge on the 13th with a run of four birdies, including a chip-in at the 15th after his ball rolled back off the green. A superb 25-foot putt at the last put the icing on the cake.
With a rejuvenated Tiger Woods finishing in the top-5 for the second week in a row and top Europeans such as Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Paul Casey in fine form, the stage is set for a thrilling 2018 edition of the Masters in April. McIlroy has raced to the head of the betting, showing as 8/1 favourite at PaddyPower with Woods second favourite at 9/1.
The two biggest names in golf firing on all cylinders will make for compulsive viewing at Augusta. For now, as this St Patrick’s Day weekend draws to a close, Irish sport can celebrate another champion who won with style and panache.