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16th Jul 2023

“Best shot I’ve hit all year” – Incredible Rory McIlroy finish sees him claim Scottish Open

Patrick McCarry

Rory McIlroy

When he had to do it, McIlroy reached down deep to finish birdie-birdie.

Rory McIlroy has become the Scottish Open champion for the first time in his career, and the first ever golfer to win The Open, Irish Open and this tournament.

McIlroy started his day in the lead but fell down the pecking order after going +2 over his first nine holes, while many around him were shooting the lights out. After bogeying his second hole, McIlroy uncorked the biggest drive of his career to get a birdie and, seemingly, back on track.

Rory McIlroy finishes with a flourish

From that birdie on the third hole, Rory McIlroy then struggled for most of the closing front nine holes, dropping two shots to fall behind leaders Tyrrell Hatton and local lad Bob McIntyre.

The McIlroy comeback began on the 11th hole with a birdie and he carded another on the 14th. While Hatton’s super final round was blotted with a double bogey on the last hole, McIntyre birdied 18 to set the clubhouse lead at -14. The Scot was in tears as he received a rapturous applause, and looked set to be only the second ever home winner of the Scottish Open, after Colin Montgomerie in 1999.

McIlroy was not finished yet, though. He birdied the 17th to join McIntyre on -14 then hit a drive on the 18th that Wayne Riley, on Sky Sports, said the four-time major winner could not have placed better for his approach.

He still had 202 yards to to flag and took out his two-iron for what would be a low-cutter into gusting 30kph winds. Needing a big shot to give himself a look at birdie, on a hole that his playing partners both ended up double-bogeying, McIlroy produced this:

Rory McIlroy on his best shot of the year

It can’t have been easy for Rory McIlroy to stand back and watch as both his playing partners, Tommy Fleetwood and Tom Kim, battled putting demons to card closing sixes. Still, he stepped up knowing that one good putt would seal victory.

McIlroy did not look too confident, as his hole trundled downhill, but his putt found the right line and in the ball dropped. He let out a relieved laugh as the crowd, putting partisan feelings aside, erupted in applause.

“I’m so proud,” McIlroy told Sky Sports. “That was such a tough day, so tough. I bogeyed my last two holes on the front nine and I saw Tyrrell and Bob were making runs… to play that back nine in four-under par to win the tournament, yeah, I’m really proud of how I just stuck in there… it feels incredible. It has been a long six months since I [last] won in Dubai but let’s hope this win breaks the seal, especially heading into next week [at The Open].” On his two-iron approach, on 18, he said:

“I was right between two iron and four-iron, as I took my three-iron out [of my bag] at the start of the week! It probably was perfect for a three-iron.

“Four-iron was only getting to the front edge [of the green] and two-iron, I had to try cut it and get it up into the wind, a little bit. I just hit this two-iron and it came off absolutely perfectly. It’s probably the best shot I hit all year. It was exactly the way I wanted to play it. When you hit a shot like that, I felt I deserved to have that putt drop, to finish it off.”

On that clinching putt, McIlroy said he let the ball ‘do its’ thing’ and he was delighted it ‘hung on and went in’.

Ahead of the tournament, he told the media it was high time – after 18 years competing in Scotland – to win an event in the country. Up next, for him and the other top golfers, is The Open at Hoylake, where he won his last major, in 2014.

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