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08th Apr 2024

Rory McIlroy shows signs of life ahead of Masters, as Leona Maguire gets Nelly-ed

Paddy Morgan

Rory McIlroy

Far from perfect for McIlroy, but some green shoots.

Rory McIlroy had his best PGA Tour finish of the year, so far, to give him some encouragement as he heads to Augusta National for the US Masters, later this week.

McIlroy carded a final round of 66 to finish solo third on -11, at the Valero Texas Open, earning $634,800 in the process. In reality, McIlroy was never really in the trophy hunt but he will be pleased with a solid round that contained six birdies and not a single dropped shot.

Over on the LPGA, Leona Maguire was beaten in the final by world number 1, Nelly Korda. The Cavan native had rolled into the final in impressive and dominant fashion but could not live with Korda, on the day. Maguire battled gamely but ended up losing 4&3, picking up a cheque of $187,584, while the American pocketed $300,000. Following that final, Maguire said:

“Obviously Nelly is the best player in the world right now probably male or female. She is playing unbelievable golf and I knew I was going to have to bring my A+ game if I was going to have a chance. [I] just didn’t putt well enough, and hats off to Nelly. She really didn’t give me much of a chance.”

Back at the Valero Texas Open, Jordan Spieth birdied the 18th hole to claim at Top 10 finish. His four on that par-five was three strokes better off, and a lot less exciting, that his adventures on the same hole, the previous day. Spieth erred off the tee, tried to slice a recovery shot back into play but landed beside a storm train, then found a roof with his third shot. He eventually took a drop and double-bogeyed. Check out the scenes here:

Third for Rory McIlroy as Akshay Bhatia wins playoff

TPC San Antonio was the venue for the 2024 Valero Texas Open. The field for the event included major champions Matt Fitzpatrick, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth.

82 players made the halfway cut on +2 but both Padraig Harrington and Seamus Power had to settle for a weekend off. Akshay Bhatia -15 shot rounds of 63, 70,68 and took a four-shot lead over Denny
McCarthy -11 into the final round. Sunday’s final group was Bhatia, McCarthy and Brendon Todd.

Bhatia got off to a sensational start with playing holes one to four in -3 to reach -18. McCarthy -12 reduced Bhatia’s lead to six due to a birdie at the fourth hole. After nine holes, Bhatia remained -18 and his nearest challenger was McCarthy (-12). There was a two-shot swing at the 10th hole, though, with McCarthy reaching -13 and a Bhatia dropping back to -17. The gap at the top of leaderboard returned to five shots due to a birdie by Bhatia at 11.

McCarthy advanced to -17 after four incredible birdies at 12,13,14,15 and trailed Bhatia by two shots heading to 16th tee. McCarthy found a hot flat-stick on the back nine as he held a 10-foot birdie putt at 16 and Bhatia’s lead was shrunk to one shot.

An exciting final two holes were in store, especially with 17 a drivable par-four and 18 a reachable par-five. McCarthy and Bhatia headed to the 72nd hole joint leaders on -19. McCarthy created history with a new nine-hole record of 28 at San Antonio to finish -20. Bhatia finished with a birdie to shoot 67 and tie McCarthy on -20.

The first playoff hole between Bhatia and McCarthy took place at the 18th hole. Bhatia was forced to call a time out before hitting his third shot due to developing a shoulder issue. McCarthy, meanwhile, found the penalty area with his third shot and a birdie by Bhatia was good enough to win Valero Texas Open. It was his second PGA Tour event and booked him a ticket to Augusta.

Rory McIlroy shot rounds of 68,70,72 and started day four -5. The Holywood native got a recent lesson, and pep-talk, from Butch Harmon and showed signs of his iron game improving, especially with playing the front nine in -3. McIlroy advanced to -9 due to holing his birdie putt at the 10th hole. The Northern Irishman made it two birdies in a row at the 11th hole to reach -10.

He finished with a birdie at 18 and shot an impressive, bogey free -6 round of 66. A timely confidence boost for McIlroy as a third place -11 in Texas is his best PGA Tour finish in 2024.

Russell Henly was only the fourth player to finish 72 holes in double figures and finish fourth on -10. Todd and Adam Schenk made up the top five on -9. Tommy Fleetwood shot a round of 68 to finish tied seventh on -8. Ben Martin and Matsuyama also finished tied seventh on -8. Major champions Fitzpatrick and Spieth finish tied 10th on -6.


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